Identity Theft Details Released; LULAC Condemns Raid - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

4/17/2008-East Texas

Identity Theft Details Released; LULAC Condemns Raid

48 people are now indicted as part of Wednesday's identity theft raid at the Pilgrim's Pride in Mount Pleasant. Immigration and customs officials confirmed that they've been looking into the scam for over a year.

Nearly 300 people in all were arrested in the pre-dawn raids at plants in 5 states. Authorities want to make it clear that the arrests were not random, and they had proof those in custody were working under someone else's Social Security number.

"A good set of documents that had the right Social Security number and right name could run up to $1300," said John Chakwin, Special Agent In Charge, Immigration & Customs Enforcement. "Its cost you more money that is more money for the right Social Security number and right name and date of birth. All the documents are provided to you, including drivers license, birth certificate. And they are all counterfeit."

ICE agents said their investigation started when the victims of these identity theft came forward after such issues as they couldn't get credit reports, and had problems with their taxes.

Word of the raids spread like wildlfire in the Hispanic community, causing fear and panic. Thursday, The League of United Latin American Citizens Officials condemned the raids and asked for justice to be served. But ICE officials say those in custody were treated with dignity and respect.

"That is not the way that I grew up in America - where people feared they were going to come and take your children away," said Domingo Garcia, LULAC General Counsel.

Garcia said it was well known that around 80% of the workers at Pilgrim's Pride had fake identification. He also said the plant had to have known about it.

"It's an open secret. Bo Pilgrim wasn't taken away in handcuffs. Why not? Why the double standard? Why go after the employee and not the employer? If you are going to do it, do it right," said Garcia.

"If our suspicions are correct there were a lot of other people that were picked beyond those that were at the courthouse who were picked up strictly on immigration holds that should never have been even quiestioned at that plant," said local Immigration Attorney Fernando Dubove.

However, they say at this point they have no proof to back up these claims. 

Another woman was shown to the media at the press conference. She claimed her husband was wrongly taken away Wednesday and that the charges were dropped. However, KLTV learned later that is not the case.

LULAC also called ICE's actions Gestapo-like.

"We went above and beyond to make sure people were treated with dignity and respect," said John Chakwin, Special Agent In Charge Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE insists they carefully planned every detail of the arrests and detentions, including food, water, facilities, and even two nurses to make sure their physical needs were met.

"Here, we contacted the superintendent that any children left behind at the end of the day to contact us and we would work with the school board to contact a caretaker that the school board would feel comfortable with," said Chakwin.

CPS was also in the area to assist with any child left unattended. Still, LULAC is not satisfied, and is now asking for a federal investigation into racial profiling. 

Danielle Capper, Reporting.

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