The large-scale immigration raid in Phoenix last weekend has activists on both sides of the debate of the thorny issue questioning the motives behind the operation that lead to the rounding up of 223 workers and a 78-count indictment.
The indictment names 14 managers and supervisors at 13 Danny’s Car Wash locations around the Phoenix-area who fired about 900 workers identified in a 2011 government audit as undocumented and then rehired many of them using different names and moving them among sites to avoid detection.
The employees named in the indictment face charges ranging from identity theft and document fraud to conspiracy and false statements.
Authorities, however, have not charged the owner of the car wash business, Daniel “Danny” Hendon, but the federal government hopes to seize the 18 corporate offices that form the legal foundation of his operation, The Arizona Republic reported.
Family members of the undocumented immigrants arrested and immigrant rights groups have called for the release of 30 workers who remain in custody after the raids.
"My husband is no criminal, he was just working and it's not right for them to do this to us," Laura Torres, the 26-year-old wife of Juan Carlos Reynoza, one of the detained workers, told EFE news agency.
The raid – one of the few of its kind since the early days on the Obama administration – has both pro-immigration and restrictionist activists eyeing a White House political motive behind the raids.
“It’s a complete contradiction to what he has been saying,” said Carlos Garcia, an organizer with the Arizona-based immigrant rights group, Puente. “From here it’s hard to tell the difference between Obama and (Maricopa County Sherriff) Joe Arpaio.”
Thanks to the get-tough tactics that Arpaio has used against undocumented immigrants, the perennially controversial state immigration law SB 1070 and statements from Gov. Jan Brewer, Arizona has become a hotspot in the immigration during the last few years.
While border security grabs most immigration-related headlines, Saturday’s raid revamped the argument over worksite raids that were used much more frequently under the administration of former President George W. Bush.
It had been years since ICE under Obama had conducted a mass immigration raid.
“It’s pretty clear that these raids were designed as away to help weak-willed congressmen who want to vote for amnesty,” said Mark Krikorian, the executive director of the Washington D.C.-based think tank, Center for Immigration Studies, which advocates for lower immigration.
“They will use these raids as evidence that the Obama administration can get tough on immigrants,” Krikorian said.
The current immigration reform bill has been passed by the Senate, but is still awaiting approval from the House, which insiders see as unlikely. Congress is currently on summer recess until September.
"There really hasn’t been a raid since the first days of the Obama administration so the timing of this is a little suspicious,” Krikorian noted. “This is a political move... This is purely for show.”
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