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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Journal Staff Writers

Leonardo Tornes waits outside the ICE headquarters building in Providence last night.

The Providence Journal / Ruben W. Perez

PROVIDENCE - Federal immigration agents and state police raided six Rhode Island courthouses yesterday, arresting dozens of people employed by two contractors hired by the state. The detainees are all believed to be maintenance workers.
The raid led to a noisy demonstration by at least 100 people outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office at 200 Dyer St. last night. Police officers arrived as the crowd grew; at one point the police pushed a line of demonstrators across the parking lot.
Some in the crowd were relatives of the arrestees. Others included clergy and at least one state representative, Grace Diaz, and members of immigrant advocacy groups.
Leonardo Tornes said his sister, Francesca Tornes, an undocumented worker from Mexico, was arrested at the Kent County Courthouse.
"She has two children - one and five years old," he said through an interpreter. "A friend who worked with her called, and said they have taken everyone," he said.
Craig N. Berke, spokesman for the Rhode Island judiciary, said the raids occurred simultaneously at 5 p.m. at all six Rhode Island courthouses. He said a "substantial" percentage of employees of two contractors hired by the state were taken into custody.
Berke declined to name the contractors, however relatives of some of the detainees identified one company as the Tri-State Enterprises employment agency on North Main Street.
Berke said those who were arrested "are not state employees. They are not employees of the judiciary." He said "dozens" of people were arrested but he did not have an exact count.
"The investigation was initiated by the judiciary," Berke said. "In early June, we forwarded evidence to the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Rhode Island State Police. The judiciary has been cooperating with that investigation on a daily basis since then." Berke declined to say what the evidence was.
"I also know that there was at least one courthouse -- I'm not sure if there was more than one -- in which no employees of the vendor were taken into custody," Berke said. "They were screened but not taken into custody."
In the two Providence courthouses, the workers were just starting their shift at 5 p.m. and would have normally stayed till 9 or 10 p.m. In the other courthouses, the workers come in earlier and are normally done by 6 p.m.
Asked who will clean the courthouses today, Berke said, "They'll be cleaned. Not every employee of the vendor was taken into custody today. And we also have daytime maintenance staff who will have to do double duty" today.
Berke said that as of last night the two contractors were still employed by the judiciary.
The courthouses that were raided are: the Garrahy Judicial Complex and the Licht Judicial Complex, both in Providence; the McGrath Judicial Complex in Wakefield; the Murray Judicial Complex in Newport; Kent County Courthouse in Warwick, and the Rhode Island Traffic Tribunal in Cranston.
Paula Grenier, an ICE spokeswoman in Boston, said an enforcement action had been carried out "as a result of a joint investigation by federal and state authorities." Grenier said the action "is part of an ongoing criminal investigation." She would not confirm that the courthouses were raided, or say how many people were detained.
The raids occurred during the first meeting of a governor's advisory panel, charged with monitoring any "unintended consequences" of Governor Carcieri's executive order cracking down on illegal immigration. The order issued in March requires that state police be deputized with certain immigration enforcement powers.
News of yesterday's raids spread rapidly as courthouse workers phoned relatives, friends and community leaders. Demonstrators assembled outside the ICE building in Providence at about 8 p.m. As police arrived, the group divided and people rushed to doors at the front and rear of the building.
Juan Garcia, organizer for Immigrants in Action at St. Teresa Church in Olneyville, said his cell phone began buzzing at 4:45 p.m. as he was driving toward Newport from Providence to discuss fallout from an immigration raid there several weeks ago that led to 42 arrests at stores, restaurants and apartments.
He said he learned the arrests had occurred at the Kent County courthouse "and right here in Providence," he said pointing to the Garrahy Judicial Complex across the street from ICE headquarters.
Some of the women who were arrested "have little kids, bigger kids," he said.
Garcia said, "This is the consequence of the governor's executive order. All companies receiving money from the state will review the legal status of people." (The order requires using a federal E-Verify system for all new hires, but not current employees).
Monica and Jacqueline Lorenti said their stepfather was arrested at Superior Court.
"His boss called. He said he couldn't do anything, nothing - everybody had the handcuffs on."

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
An uncertain future: 31 workers expected to face immigration charges

10:02 AM EDT on Thursday, July 17, 2008

By Tom Mooneyand KAREN LEE ZINER

Journal Staff Writers

Irma Perez, left, and Doli Guerrero, speak about their arrests by immigration agents at a news conference yesterday outside the J. Joseph Garrahy Judicial Complex in Providence.

The Providence Journal / Steve Szydlowski

PROVIDENCE - On the Friday morning of June 6, a court clerk walked into the J. Joseph Garrahy Judicial Complex and noticed something suspicious.
On the office floor beside a photocopy machine lay a paper reproduction of some form of identification card.
The clerk's next move, law enforcement officials say, was probably prompted by the current debate over the governor's crackdown on illegal immigrants: the clerk called in the Capitol Police, who in turn notified the state police.
A month-long investigation culminated Tuesday when 50 immigration agents and 12 state police detectives swept into six Rhode Island courthouses at the end of the work day and peacefully arrested 31 maintenance workers on suspicion of being illegal immigrants. Some had used fraudulent identification to obtain their jobs, said U.S. Attorney Robert Clark Corrente.

The arrested workers - 16 women and 15 men - originated from Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil and Mexico. By yesterday morning, 12 had been released, some fitted with electronic ankle bracelets, pending future proceedings, on humanitarian grounds such as medical conditions or being the primary caregivers of children.
None had been charged criminally, said Corrente, but all face immigration charges.
No charges had been filed against the two cleaning companies that supplied the workers: TriState Enterprises, of North Providence, and Falcon Maintenance LLC, of Johnston. The two companies have at least 45 contracts to clean state buildings, including the offices of Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, the state Department of Administration and the Board of Elections.
It was the second time in recent weeks that dozens of immigrants were suddenly taken into custody. On June 11 and 12, immigration agents conducted a sweep of restaurants, stores and apartments in Newport and Middletown, arresting 42 people from Brazil, Guatemala and Mexico.
News of Tuesday's arrests sparked varied reaction, from joyous support from one group pushing for stricter enforcement of immigration laws, to condemnation on the part of about 70 immigrant advocates who rallied outside the Garrahy complex.
Terry Gorman, president of Rhode Islanders for Immigration Law Enforcement, which has been a vocal proponent of curbing illegal immigration, said his group was "really ecstatic … It's beginning to show the magnitude of the problem." Gorman said he was pleased the arrests were done humanely with consideration for the workers.
The police actions occurred at the same time that an advisory panel charged with monitoring any "unintended consequences" of Governor Carcieri's March executive order on immigration was meeting for the first time at the State House. The order requires that companies doing business with the state use the federal E-Verify system to ensure that their workers are legal residents. And it deputizes the state police with certain immigration enforcement powers.
Carcieri, who attended that meeting, said yesterday it was a "complete coincidence" that the arrests occurred as the meeting was convening. He said he "got a heads up the day before" that the arrests would happen, though state police Supt. Col. Brendan Doherty said earlier yesterday that he had spoken to the governor's chief of staff Brian Stern "maybe four or five days ago" about the date of the raid.
Corrente said the date of the operation "has been set for a while" and that as far as the timing of the raids and the meeting: "one had nothing to do with the other."
But the Rev. Jeffrey Williams, a member of immigration advisory panel, said he was "horrified."
"The timing cannot help but raise suspicions," said Williams, pastor of the Cathedral of Life Christian Assembly. "I'd like to believe that the two are mutually exclusive, but nevertheless we were sitting with the governor and the fact that raids were going on at the same time is troublesome … I cannot help but feel uneasy over the fact that the raids were going on and no one even mentioned it, no one said, 'and by the way, this is going on.' "
Another panel member, the Rev. Donald Anderson of the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, was less concerned about the timing than the fact that raids occurred at all.
"One of the concerns that folks have about those who are here undocumented is that they are dragging down social services and getting freebies from the state government, but where did they pick these people up? At work!" Anderson said. "When I heard I said, 'OK so there are 31 people no longer employed. Is there a line of [citizens] who want these jobs?' My guess is that's not the case. I don't think these are jobs that people want to do."
Meanwhile, as federal authorities promised to continue their investigation, court officials were considering ways to better screen courthouse workers and at least two state colleges - the University of Rhode Island and the Community College of Rhode Island - were reviewing their own contracts with the two cleaning companies that supplied the courthouse workers.
The arrests may have had repercussions for cleaning services at URI, where TriState has a number of cleaning contracts.
Office of Higher Education spokesman Steve Maurano confirmed that "some TriState workers [at URI] did not show up for work today. Whether or not those are the same people who were picked up in the raid… that I can't confirm…I don't know if they unilaterally said to their workers, 'Look, instead of going to URI today, go here or go there' to cover bases."
Frank Pirri, director of sales and operations for TriState Enterprises, said his company "takes all the necessary steps to ensure that all of their workers have the proper paperwork." The workers, he said, must provide documentation such as Social Security numbers, a photo ID, and a driver's license to get hired.
Pirri said TriState Enterprises also performs criminal background investigations of all its workers and will be conducting its own internal investigation as well as "working with the proper authorities to ensure that any issues are corrected."
George M. Capello, registered agent for Falcon Maintenance, declined comment, citing the ongoing investigation. The company may issue a statement in the future, he said: "We all need to get some information."
Kristen Cyr, spokeswoman for the Community College of Rhode Island, said all maintenance workers at the college's four campuses are employees of TriState and Falcon. Twenty-five janitors at CCRI's Providence, Lincoln and Newport campuses are employees of TriState, Cyr said, and 32 janitors at the Warwick campus work for Falcon.
After Monday's raids "we are looking into the contracts with the aid of counsel from the Board of Governors," Cyr said.
At a morning news conference in Corrente's Providence office, Bruce M. Foucart, a federal agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said "we put special emphasis on investigations that involve critical infrastructure or sensitive security sites. In this case, what we found was 31 individuals working in courthouses where sensitive and personal information could potentially be available …"
"Simply put," said Foucart, "illegal aliens using fake documents to work in the United States are a vulnerability to sensitive security sites."
Doherty, of the state police, also raised concern about courthouse security.
Doherty said if those workers were willing to present false identification paperwork for the criminal background check required of everyone who works in the state's courthouses, they might also circumvent other security protocols, such as walking through metal detectors.
"It raised great concern for me," said Doherty. "One of our concerns is the ability to plant a weapon."
Court spokesman Craig Berke said that by contract the maintenance workers, who usually start their work shifts in the evening, are required to pass through the metal detectors. Capitol Police monitor those screenings, he said, and remain in the buildings until the janitors and maintenance staff leave for the night.
In terms of illegal immigrants having access to case files, "I don't believe there is a lot of concern about sensitive material," said Berke. The cases are locked away at the end of the day, he said, and computers can only be accessed through passwords which are regularly changed.
But apparently at least one of the workers was using a copy machine in the Garrahy complex to photocopy fraudulent identification papers.
Berke said the courts were considering running the names of courthouse workers through a national crime database in addition to the current state criminal database. But again, Berke said, if the workers present false identification papers such searches would likely prove futile for identifying illegal immigrants. The courts were also considering fingerprinting but that could be expensive, as much as $35 a check.
ICE agent Foucart said the arrested workers were being held in various regional locations. He wouldn't say specifically where -- "That's too sensitive a question."
The suspected illegal immigrants do have due process protections, he said, and will have their day in court. If they are found guilty of a crime and sentenced to prison, they serve their time here before they are deported.


More Storys:

An uncertain future: 31 workers expected to face immigration charges

TriState, Falcon have over 45 contracts with R.I.

'I am afraid … that they will deport me.'

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State police say arrests don't constitute a 'raid'

01:00 AM EDT on Thursday, July 17, 2008

By Tom Mooney

Journal Staff writer

On Tuesday night, as state police Supt. Col. Brendan Doherty was telling an advisory committee on the governor's immigration order that troopers would not be conducting raids to capture illegal immigrants, 12 of his detectives were about to participate with 50 immigration agents in an operation that would lead to the arrest of 31 suspected illegal immigrants.
The situation threw Doherty into a swirling controversy of semantics yesterday with him denying that what he said was in any way contradictory to what happened.
"I stated it's not a state police initiative to conduct raids and sweeps. This was not a raid," Doherty said during a morning news conference. "This was a police action. These were arrests…. We do not initiate raids of any buildings, businesses or homes regarding ICE matters."
The distinction was lost on several people yesterday.
Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island Affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that at the meeting of the governor's advisory panel to monitor the "unintended consequences" of the state's crackdown on illegal immigration, "representatives from community organizations were expliI stated it's not a state police initiative to conduct raids and sweeps. This was not a raidcitly told by the state police that the agency would not be in the business of conducting immigration raids. We now know that at almost the very same moment, they were doing just that in coordination with federal authorities."
Brown said, "When confronted with this blatant contradiction, we hear the head of the state police explain today that [Tuesday's] raids weren't really 'raids,' they were 'arrests.' "
Brown called Doherty's words an "Orwellian twist of language…"
Advisory panel member Toby Ayers, executive director of Rhode Island for Community & Justice, said she was troubled by the timing of what happened. "The concern about the process is as we sat there [at the advisory panel meeting] and the law enforcement [representatives on the panel] emphasized that they were not doing sweeps, the courthouses were being swept," she said.

38 Posts
I still don't understand the illegal immigration problem we have. I was just talking to a personal friend of mind that works the border as an agent, he said it is frustrating because they arrest the same person sometimes twice a night. We are the only country in the world so tolerable of illegal aliens...and then we wonder why it is so hard to catch the terrorists. HELLO can't bitch that we ship illegals home and also bitch because we didn't catch terrorists (illegal aliens). Just my 2 cents....
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