Feds arrest illegal immigrants in Arkadelphia
The raid, follows an audit of the company's employee records plus a conviction of one of their former employees for falsifying U.S. documents. Special agents from the local ICE Texarkana Office were joined by 30 agents from other ICE regional offices.
Ronnie Farm the manager of the plant and said, “70% of his morning work force was taken away. He says that's because agents on the scene determined that many of his employees had bought illegal U.S. birth certificates and social security cards to get photo IDs from the state.” Those IDs were then used to gain employment at Petit Jean Poultry.
Farm says the employee arrested in December 2004 was Maria Moreno. In February of this year, she pleaded guilty to selling identity documents and social security cards.
Farm wonders what is going to happen to the kids of all these employees who were taken away. So far, a number of them have been taken to local churches and relatives where they are being looked after.
Local officials and the families affected say they all agree Immigration made a mess of this situation because of the kids. But an Immigration spokesman says that isn't the case because they didn't know the kids existed.
Rudy Gutierrez is pastor of Primeria Iglesia Baptista of Arkadelphia. He is helping as many kids cope as he can until they are reunited with their loved ones. He says, “They have family. They have uncle, aunt, cousins or brother or sisters or grandmas. So they stay in the home temporarily. Families are scared, but it's temporary care.”
Guiterrez says he got a call while the raid was in progress. He says it was an ugly sight. “I see immigration vans were taking people inside the plant and then take everybody to Texarkana,” says Guiterrez.
Many in the area are unhappy with the way the raid was handled by Immigration because of the families it broke up. But Immigration spokesman Temple Black says they didn't know any of the adults had children.
“But we did specifically ask that question of all the individuals we interviewed, so 119 and we didn't get any feed back that there were children left behind,” he says. But Mayor Charles Hollingsched says surely they must have known. “That's probably the most tragic part of the whole thing. By not letting anybody know they were coming or what they were doing, a lot of those families had kids in daycare in different places, and they didn't know why mommy and daddy didn't come pick them up,” he says.
In defense of Immigration, Black says they did inform the local authorities and said Arkansas State Police even helped provide security during the raid.
Pastor Guiterrez says the illegals were given a choice: “stay in this country and fight deportation or go back to their home country.” Temple Black says many of them decided to head home to Mexico.
For now, Guiterrez is making sure all 30 kids are safe and sound. He says all he can do now is pray for the situation to change.
We asked Black if any of the people caring for the children could face possible legal consequences. He said that was not the goal of immigration, but he couldn't guarantee it.
The raid stemmed from the February identity theft conviction of Maria Moreno, 54, arrested at her home in Arkadelphia, AR., by ICE special agents. Moreno provided illegal immigrants with false documentation to work. Moreno a former long-time employee of Petit Jean Poultry in Arkadelphia, worked at times in the personnel office. Moreno left her employment at Petit Jean in 2003. The documents Moreno sold were those of real United States citizens.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement said many illegal immigrants at the company purchased U.S. citizen birth certificates and Social Security cards, and then used the documents to get ID cards, bearing their photos, from the state of Arkansas. The Arkansas IDs were used to get work. When Moreno was arrested in December, immigration officials say they also seized 60-thousand dollars from her and suspect it was from the sale of the documents.
Of those arrested, two were from Honduras, one from El Salvador, one from Guatemala, and the remaining 115 aliens were from Mexico. There were a total of 50 males, 69 females, one of which was a 14-year-old juvenile. Wages paid to the illegal workers ranged from $6 to $6.80 per hour.
PUBLISHER NOTE: If you are in a position to help these children and the families affected by the raid, please do. These are a few ways by which you can make a difference. Send donations and/or supplies to:
St. Anne's Church – Father Thomas
Attn: 30 Children of Arkadelphia
6150 Remount Rd.
North Little Rock, AR 72118-2208
Catholic Charities in Springdale
Attn: 30 Children of Arkadelphia
2022 W. Sunset Ave.
Springdale, AR 72762
For money donations, please write a check or money order to Catholic Charities and also write in the memo line "30 Children of Arkadelphia". For additional information, call Sheila Gomez at (501) 664-0340. Thank you.