Tag Archive: Mark J Shuster


 

shiloh.jpg

 

 

Federal Judge Dolly Gee has ordered the transfer of all children out of the Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas, due to allegations of widespread abuse in the immigrant detention center. Judge Gee condemned the detention center for injecting children with psychotropic drugs without their parents’ consent, imprisoning some children in overly restrictive confinement and prohibiting the children from making private phone calls. She also explicitly ordered that the detention center must obtain permission from a legal guardian before giving any psychotropic drugs to detained children.

A pending class-action lawsuit alleges immigrant children housed at the Shiloh Treatment Center were held down and forcibly injected with drugs, rendering them unable to walk, afraid of people and wanting to sleep constantly.  Court documents allege troubling practices in which children claim they were tackled and injected and forced to take pills identified as vitamins that made them dizzy and drowsy.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee found conditions at the nonprofit Shiloh Treatment Center, in violation of a 1997 settlement, called Flores vs. Reno, requiring immigration officials to place detained minors “in the least restrictive setting appropriate to (each Class Member’s) age and special needs.” Gee ordered that all children involved in the suit be removed from the Shiloh facility “unless a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist” determines that a particular child “poses a risk of harm to self or others.”  She also ordered the government to seek consent before giving psychotropic drugs to any detained migrant child. Without consent, the facility may administer such a drug only in an emergency or under a court order, she said.

The Shiloh Residential Treatment Center in Manvel, Texas, was founded in 1995 by Clay Dean Hill.   In 2013, the resettlement agency began funding the shelter, sending it more than $26 million in grants over five years to house migrant children.  The company that operates the facility south of Houston has a history of problems, including deaths of children in its custody and allegations children were systematically drugged with psychotropic medications.  The children were allegedly drugged with pills and injections at the residential treatment center.

The center, a mobile home complex-turned-child care center, is licensed to serve kids ages 3 to 17, is run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement and the office is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The center has been cited eight times for by Texas inspectors in the last three years.  Some of the infractions include overdue background check renewals for staff, children being able to get into medication and go to the restroom with it, and children who were inadequately supervised due to staff members being distracted on their cellphones.

Children have continued to be placed there despite the center being plagued with serious accusations for years.  In 2001, Stephanie Duffield, 16, died after being restrained by staff. Following her death, Shiloh was found to be “in compliance” with state requirements, according to the refugee resettlement office. Children have died at two other programs affiliated with Clay Hill, Behavior Training Research Inc. and the now-closed Daystar Residential Inc. Between 1993 and 2010, three children died after being restrained at those facilities. In 2002, Latasha Bush, 15, died from asphyxia. Eight years later, Michael Keith Owens, 16, died after being restrained inside a closet. Both deaths were ruled homicides.  In most cases, the children were hogtied. Beyond these deaths, there were reports of sexual abuse and staff making developmentally disabled girls fight for snacks.

Advertisements

 

thurman.jpg

 

 

Minneapolis prosecutors have announced there will be no charges filed against Ryan Kelly and Justin Schmidt, the two Minneapolis police officers who fatally shot 31-year-old Thurman Blevins as he was running away.  His death on June 23 led to protests across the city as activists decried the killing of yet another black man at the hands of white police officers.  The incident was captured in body-camera footage released by the city of Minneapolis a little over a month after Blevins was killed.

The officers were responding to a 911 call of a man who looked intoxicated, firing a gun in the air and at the ground.  The description given in the call was of a black male with a black backpack and a bottle of gin. Six feet tall, 180 pounds, tapered hair, wearing a white-and-gray tank top.  One video begins as Officers Kelly and Schmidt drive through a neighborhood in northern Minneapolis looking for the suspect.  “That’s kind of a really good description for that to be an actual legitimate call,” Schmidt says in the video. “But . . . then again.”

A few blocks from where the caller reported seeing the man, they spot Blevins sitting on the curb with a gray dog.  “He’s got a bottle of gin,” Schmidt says. “Is he . . . black tank top, tapered hair . . . yeah.” Then, with considerably more urgency in his voice, Schmidt says, “He’s got a gun.”  The car comes to an abrupt stop and both officers jump out.  Blevins springs from the curb and starts running, dropping the dog’s leash and nearly knocking over a woman with a stroller.   “Put your hands up! I will f—ing shoot you!” Schmidt yells.

Both officers chase after Blevins, shouting at him to stop and put his hands up.  “Come on, man. Come on, man. I didn’t do nothing, bro,” Blevins says as he runs.  “You’ve got a gun,” Schmidt responds.  “I don’t,” Blevins calls back.  “Yes, you do,” Schmidt replies “Put it down.”  Sprinting past a white picket fence, Blevins rounds a corner and turns down an alleyway.  “Homie, please,” he pants. “Please, don’t shoot me. Leave me alone.”  About 45 seconds into the chase, Schmidt starts firing and Blevins collapses. When the officers get closer, what appears to be a small handgun is lying on the ground near Blevins’s right hand.

In addition to the two officers’ body-camera videos, the city also released an “enhanced” version of the footage in which the gun police say he was carrying has been circled. The object is visible in Blevins’s pocket when the officers arrive at the scene, then in his hands when Schmidt opens fire.  Reactions to the video were mixed. Some argued that the officers had been justified in shooting Blevins, because he appeared to have a gun and had refused to drop it despite multiple warnings. Others argued that police should have done more to de-escalate the situation when they arrived at the scene.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced the decision at a news conference that was interrupted by protests.  In Freeman’s prepared remarks, which were released by his office, the prosecutor said there was “no basis to issue criminal charges against either officer,” because Blevins “fled from the officers with a loaded handgun, refused to follow their commands for him to stop and show his hands, and then took the gun out of his pocket and turned toward the officers.”  Freeman’s office also released a 21-page report further explaining the decision and concluding that Blevins “posed an immediate threat to the officers’ safety.”

The report outlined the findings of a state investigation, which included analyzing the body-worn cameras, forensic analysis of the gun and interviews with officers involved, along with witnesses. The findings were sent to Freeman, who reviewed it with three senior prosecutors to make the decision not to charge the officers.

 

 

 

laos dam.jpg

Aid groups say the toll from the collapse of a billion-dollar hydroelectric dam in Lao’s is far higher than the official figure of 27 dead and 131 missing. Despite a government ban on foreign media covering the disaster, the BBC reports the death toll could be closer to 300. Another 3,000 people are still stranded in homes surrounded by floodwaters and over 6,000 people have been displaced.  The dam collapse occurred around 8 p.m. on July 23rd and caused immediate flash flooding through the villages of Yai Thae, Hinlad, Ban Mai, Thasengchan, Tha Hin, and Samong, all in Sanamxay district.  Homes, roads and bridges were swept away.

The disaster has revived the debate about plans by the Laos government to boost the economy by building dozens of dams to export hydroelectricity to neighboring countries.  The South Korean company that is the main builder of the hydroelectric project has admitted that it knew the dam was deteriorating a day before it failed but the reason for the collapse remains unclear.  There are conflicting reports on when damages to the dam were first noticed, raising more questions on whether the order to evacuate villagers from their homes should have been issued earlier.  The portion of the dam that collapsed was reported to be a saddle dam—its official name was “Saddle ‘D’, an auxiliary structure used to hold water beyond what is held by the main dam”.

Emergency teams in southern Laos are continuing to search for survivors following the collapse of a dam, which released five billion cubic meters of water.  As floodwaters in began to recede, official sources said eight bodies had been recovered, while an official has suggested more than 1,100 people may still be unaccounted for.  Homes were swept away and farmland submerged when an auxiliary dam at the Xe Pian Xe Namnoy hydroelectric project collapsed.

An overwhelming amount of mud left behind is hampering search operations.  Some areas are inaccessible by boat, with helicopter flights being the only way to reach some communities.  Rescue efforts are further complicated by the fact that the area is densely forested with no mobile-phone coverage.  Roads that previously existed were washed away in the floods and thousands of people who fled their homes are packed into makeshift shelters.

Officials in northern Cambodia have ordered the evacuation of 25,000 people downriver of the collapsed dam, due to heavy flooding and rising water levels.  The Prime Minister of Laos, Thongloun Sisoulith, suspended his immediate meetings and travelled in person to the site.  Sisoulith also called in both the police and the army, declaring the area a disaster zone.  The local government requested emergency aid from neighboring communities.  The neighboring countries of China, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have offered to provide any assistance needed by Laos.

 

 

 

thai soccer team.jpg

 

 

 

In Thailand, rescuers raced to free 12 members of a youth soccer team and a coach who had been trapped in a flooded cave for nearly three weeks.  Divers found the teammates and coach alive, but had been unable to rescue them.  In the last 18 days, a local search for the missing 13 turned into a complex rescue operation, involving hundreds of experts who flew in from around the world to help in the rescue efforts.  The rescue has been a race to extract the boys and their coach ahead of monsoon rains that could haved flooded the cave completely.  Cave experts grappled with the problem of how to free the young, malnourished boys, some of whom couldn’t swim, from a flooded cavern as monsoon rains threatened to raise water levels even further.  The boys received a crash course in swimming and the use of SCUBA gear.

The final boy and his coach rescued Tuesday are still being treated at an on-site medical center, while three other boys have been transported to a nearby hospital where eight of their teammates are recuperating after being rescued Sunday and Monday.  Nineteen divers entered the cave at 10 a.m. local time Tuesday (11 p.m. Monday ET), many on their third mission in three days, with the aim of bringing everyone inside the cave out.  Tuesday’s rescue efforts took nine hours from the time the divers entered the cave to bringing out the boys and their coach.

Divers involved in the rescue described dangerous conditions involving fast-moving shallow water passing through very narrow passages. Poor visibility, razor sharp rocks and narrow passages made the rescue very tricky.  As rain threatened to hamper what was already a complicated rescue mission it became clear the boys were going to have to dive out  Officials scrambled to find full-face oxygen masks small enough to fit the boys and experts were sent in to teach them how to use scuba gear.

Two days before the first four boys were rescued, officials warned that oxygen levels within the cave had fallen to 15%.  The “optimal range” of oxygen needed in the air a person breathes in order to maintain normal function is between 19.5% and 23.5%.  Such low levels creates the risk of hypoxia, a condition that causes altitude sickness.

During the hours-long trip out of the cave, each boy was accompanied underwater by two divers helping them navigate the dark, murky water. The most dangerous part required the divers and boys to squeeze through a narrow, flooded channel. Rescuers had to hold the boys’ oxygen tanks in front of them and swim pencil-like through submerged holes. Once they completed this section, the boys were then handed over to separate, specialist rescue teams, who helped assist them through the remainder of the cave, much of which they can wade through.

All the boys rescued are being treated in an isolation ward in a Chiang Rai hospital. Medical officials told reporters that they’re healthy, fever-free, mentally fit and “seem to be in high spirits.”  They will remain in insolation until the risk of infection has passed.  Parents of the boys have been able to see their children through a glass window and talk to them on the phone. They’ll be allowed to enter the room if tests show the boys are free of infection.

The permanent secretary of the Thai Health Ministry, said the first group of boys taken out on Sunday were aged 14 to 16. Their body temperatures were very low when they emerged, and two are suspected of having lung inflammation.  The second group freed on Monday were aged 12 to 14.  Authorities will look for signs of Histoplasmosis, also known as “cave disease,” an infection caused by breathing in spores of a fungus often found in bird and bat droppings.  They are all likely to stay in hospital for seven days due to their weakened immune systems.

 

 

newrooms shooting.jpg

 

 

 

 

In Annapolis, Maryland, five people were left dead and two others injured after a gunman armed with a shotgun and smoke grenades stormed the newsroom of the Capital Gazette newspaper on the afternoon of June 28th.   The suspect, Jarrod W. Ramos, 38, was taken into custody at the scene and was charged on Friday morning with five counts of first-degree murder.  Police say Ramos refused to cooperate with the authorities or provide his name and was identified using facial recognition technology.

The attack was covered in real time by some of the journalists who found themselves under siege. A message saying “please help us” with the address of the office building was tweeted from the account of Anthony Messenger, a summer intern. A crime reporter, Phil Davis, described how the gunman “shot through the glass door to the office” before opening fire on employees.  “There is nothing more terrifying than hearing multiple people get shot while you’re under your desk and then hear the gunman reload,” Mr. Davis wrote.

Davis said during a phone interview that the gunman was silent as he stalked the newsroom, stopping once to reload as journalists huddled in fear under their desks.  Once the police arrived, staff members put their hands in the air and shouted, “We’re not him,” Mr. Davis recalled. The gunman was hiding under a desk as the police moved in. He did not exchange gunfire with officers when he was taken in.

Police say Ramos had a long history of conflict with the Capital Gazette, which produces a number of local newspapers along Maryland’s shore, suing journalists there for defamation and waging a social media campaign against them.  “This was a targeted attack on the Capital Gazette,” said William Krampf, acting chief of the Anne Arundel County Police Department. “This person was prepared to shoot people. His intent was to cause harm.”

In July 2012, Mr. Ramos filed a defamation lawsuit in Maryland’s Prince George’s County Circuit Court against Capital Gazette Communications, its then editor and publisher and a former reporter, claiming that his reputation had been damaged after the newspaper published a story in 2011 about Mr. Ramos’s guilty plea in a harassment case. Three months later, he filed a fuller complaint alleging invasion of privacy.  The lawsuit was later dismissed by Judge Maureen M. Lamasney after a March 2013 hearing, in which Mr. Ramos, who represented himself, was unable to identify anything that was falsely reported in the July 2011 article nor could he cite examples about how he had been harmed. According to the appellate decision that later affirmed the dismissal, Ramos showed no understanding of defamation law.

During a press conference, Acting Deputy Chief William Krampf told reportrs that the suspect had made violent threats against the paper and the paper had been threatened the day of the shooting.  Krampf could not specifically confirm what the threats entailed or if the shooter targeted anyone specifically but did say the shooting was a targeted attack.  Those killed in the shooting were identified as longtime editor and columnist Rob Hiaasen, editorial page editor Gerald Fischman, columnist and editor John McNamara, sales assistant Rebecca Smith and editor and community reporter Wendi Winters.

family separations.jpg

 

 

Nationwide outrage and protests has grown over the practice of forcibly separating immigrant children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border, in violation of international human rights law. At least 3,700 immigrant children have been separated from their parents since October and Border Patrol says it has separated more than 2,300 kids since Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a “zero tolerance” policy in April.  The separated children have been sent to detention facilities in at least 17 states.

It had long been a misdemeanor federal offense to be caught illegally entering the US, punishable by up to six months in prison.  However, the administration didn’t always refer everyone caught for prosecution. Those apprehended were swiftly put into immigration proceedings and unless they met the threshold to pursue a valid asylum claim, were quickly deported from the country.  The “zero tolerance” policy plan makes no special arrangements for those who claim asylum when apprehended and refers all apprehended for prosecution-thus the increase in family separations.  While they will be allowed to pursue their claims and could eventually be found to have a legitimate right to live in the US, they could still already have a conviction for illegal entry.

Outrage grew as images of immigrant children housed in chain-linked cages covered with foil blankets circulated through social media and news outlets.  Investigative news source ProPublica obtained audio of children desperately crying for their parents at an immigrant detention facility.   ProPublica: “The desperate sobbing of 10 Central American children, separated from their parents one day last week by immigration authorities at the border, makes for excruciating listening. Many of them sound like they’re crying so hard, they can barely breathe. They scream ‘Mami’ and ‘Papá’ over and over again, as if those are the only words they know.”  The audio can be hard to listen to for many and sparked mass outrage from both sides of the political parties.

Governors of eight states—Maryland, Massachusetts, Virginia, Rhode Island, Colorado, New York, North Carolina and Connecticut—said they would either withhold or recall their National Guard troops from the border, in protest of the practice of separating children.  The resources in question from each state are relatively small, so the actions a more of a strong symbolic political gesture.

American Airlines and United Airlines have asked the administration to stop transporting immigrant children who have been separated from their families aboard their companies’ planes. American Airlines said in a statement, “We have no desire to be associated with separating families, or worse, to profit from it.”   United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz said, “Our Company’s shared purpose is to connect people and unite the world. This policy and its impact on thousands of children is in deep conflict with that mission and we want no part of it.”

On Wednesday, the US President signed an executive order claiming to end the separation of children from their parents at the border, by detaining them together while their legal cases go through the courts. The order does not say where the families will be detained or whether children will continue to be separated from their parents until the facilities are ready.  Critics warn the order will lead to the indefinite detention of entire families.  The order has not outlined any plans for reuniting children already separated from their families.

 

 

fresh-mark-salem-2-raid-june-2018.png

 

 

 

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Ohio raided another company and said 146 workers were arrested as part of a year-long investigation into Fresh Mark, a northern Ohio meat supplier.  ICE officials raided the company’s plant in Salem, Ohio, about 4 p.m. Tuesday. Search warrants also were served at three other locations in the state.  An ICE spokesman said the investigation continues and could result in additional charges. He did not rule out charges against Fresh Mark employees who may have hired workers in the country illegally.

Fresh Mark was once touted by the government as a partner in preventing hiring undocumented workers. Under the Obama administration, ICE announced the supplier was the first Ohio company to partner with a program meant to “curtail the employment of unauthorized workers,” according to a 2012 news release announcing ICE’s partnership with Fresh Mark. “We are honored to be selected by ICE to participate in this program,” Fresh Mark human resources director Mark Sullivan said in the news release. “For nearly a decade, Fresh Mark has proactively partnered with the government to ensure the integrity of our workforce and the IMAGE program will be a tremendous addition to our future employee verification process.”

Under the program, called the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, or IMAGE, employers can voluntarily partner with the agency by taking steps to weed out undocumented workers. They must use the government’s E-Verify system, which checks employees’ I-9 employment eligibility status and create hiring policies.  After the June 19th raid, ICE said the company may have knowingly hired undocumented workers and many are using fraudulent identification belonging to U.S. citizens.

Immigration officials lined up dozens of workers, many dressed in white helmets and smocks, outside the meat-processing plant in rural Ohio.  An ICE spokesman confirmed that about 60 workers at the Fresh Mark plant in Salem who were detained have been released.  Workers who are in the country legally but did not have proper documentation with them at the time of the raid were released after officials determined they are authorized to work in the United States.  ICE officials said they also released several workers for health and family reasons and other humanitarian concerns.

The remaining 86 workers detained in the raid are being held at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center on Hubbard Road and the Geauga County jail while they await deportation proceedings.  The men were sent to the East Side private prison and the women were sent to Geauga County.  Sister Rene Weeks, of St. Paul Parish in Salem, said the majority of those detained in the raid were Guatemalan nationals who fled violence in that country and they comprise a large percentage of Salem’s immigrant community.  She added that those released for humanitarian reasons included parents who had children left behind after the raid as well as one woman who is several months pregnant and another who has leukemia.  “They were pretty terrified when the raid happened and relieved to be back with their families, but they are also worried about what comes next,” Sister Rene said.  Sister Rene said many of those who were released met with immigration lawyers Wednesday at St. Paul Parish.

ICE has carried out several such raids in recent months. Two weeks ago, it arrested 114 workers at a gardening company’s two Ohio locations. In April, ICE raided a meatpacking plant in rural Tennessee and arrested 97 immigrants. In January, ICE raided dozens of 7-Eleven stores nationwide, arresting 21.

 

 

george tyndall.jpg

 

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the University of Southern California (USC) and a former gynecologist there, Dr. George Tyndall, who is accused of sexually harassing and molesting dozens, and potentially hundreds, of students during his nearly 30 years at the university.  The attorneys who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Tyndall’s accusers, wrote that USC “actively and deliberately concealed Tyndall’s sexual abuse for years.”  The lawsuit was filed on behalf of seven women who claim Tyndall used racist and inappropriately sexual language during consultations and conducted pelvic examinations with his fingers without gloves.

After an LA Times piece published in May exposed the allegations, the Los Angeles Police Department has launched an investigation into the allegations, USC president C.L. Max Nikias has resigned, and the rest of the university faculty has been scrambling to address the school’s shortcomings in regard to issues of sexual misconduct.

Tyndall had a history of allegedly inappropriately touching female students during gynecological examinations, making lewd comments about their bodies, and taking pictures of their genitals. USC acknowledged it had received complaints against Tyndall as early as 2000.  Authorities say school administrators received reports of sexual abuse during pelvic exams dating back to the early 1990s but failed to investigate these reports until 2016. The doctor wasn’t fired until 2017, when his colleagues discovered a box full of pictures of female genitalia in his office.

They finally parted ways with him last June, but only after the university conducted an internal investigation and found out about the ignored complaints.  University officials said the school reached a settlement with the doctor and did not report him to law enforcement or state medical authorities at the time.  Authorities say fifty-two former patients of a Tyndall, who treated thousands of women at the University of Southern California have reported they may have been victims of inappropriate and possibly criminal behavior.  Police estimate Dr. George Tyndall may have seen 10,000 patients and they think there could be more victims among women who were examined by him.

The 71-year-old reportedly admitted that his exams were “extremely thorough” but claimed he never did anything inappropriate. Several former co-workers spoke to the LA Times “They felt like they were violated,” explained one nurse, who spoke with at least five women in 2013 and 2014 who refused to be seen by Tyndall.  “They felt like he was inappropriately touching them, that it didn’t feel like a normal exam.”  Other co-workers claim he was improperly taking pictures of students’ genitals and making inappropriate remarks during pelvic exams.  Tyndall would often commend patients on their “flawless” and “creamy” skin, while also making comments about their bodies, the employees said.  A nurse recalls an exchange where she watched him compliment a student on her “perky breasts.”  “They stand right up there, don’t they?’” she recalled him telling the patient.

In 2013, eight different medical assistants who were in exam rooms during exams, voiced their concerns about Tyndall to long time nurse Cindy Gilbert, but nothing was done about his behavior.  Gilbert reported the complaints to then-executive director Dr. Lawrence Neinstein who instead chose to handle the situation “independently.”

 

 

 

oxy lawsuit.jpg

 

Massachusetts has filed a lawsuit against 16 top executives of Purdue Pharma, the maker of the popular drug OxyContin, claiming they misled doctors, patients and the public about the dangers posed by the opioid-based painkiller.  Attorney General Maura Healey said “Their strategy was simple: The more drugs they sold, the more money they made—and the more people died. We found that Purdue engaged in a multibillion-dollar enterprise to mislead us about their drugs. Purdue pushed prescribers to give higher doses to keep patients on drugs for longer periods of time, without regard to the very real increased risk of addiction, overdose and death.”  Texas, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota and Tennessee have filed similar lawsuits in state courts against the drug maker, whose headquarters are in Stamford, Connecticut.

The Texas’ lawsuit accuses Purdue Pharma, the privately held manufacterer of OxyContin, of violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act by aggressively selling its products “when it knew their drugs were potentially dangerous and that its use had a high likelihood of leading to addiction,” state Attorney General Ken Paxton said.  “As Purdue got rich from sales of its opioids, Texans and others across the nation were swept up in a public health crisis that led to tens of thousands of deaths each year due to opioid overdoses,” Paxton said.

State officials in Arizona, Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia,  — sued various pain-killer manufacturers and distributors for their roles in helping the opioid epidemic grow.  In 2007, Purdue Pharma did not admit wrongdoing when it paid $19.5 million to settle lawsuits with 26 states and the District of Columbia after being accused of aggressively marketing OxyContin to doctors while downplaying the risk of addiction.  Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas were part of that agreement while Florida and North Dakota were not.

Opioids were the cause of nearly 42,250 deaths in 2016, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   Research suggests that since heroin and opioid painkillers, (including prescription ones) act similarly in the brain.  Opioid painkillers are often referred to by some doctors as “heroin lite” and taking one (even “as directed”) can increase one’s susceptibility to becoming hooked on the other.  Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, with opioids as the number-one driver.

Deaths from opioids (including fentynals) have been rising sharply for years with an estimated 100 drug overdoses a day across the country.  Experts say the epidemic could kill nearly half a million people across America over the next decade as the crisis of addiction and overdose accelerates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

ice_sting_ohio_2_-_by_john_minchillo.jpg

 

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), arrested 114 undocumented immigrants working at an Ohio gardening business in one of its largest workplace raids in recent years.  Tuesday’s arrests targeted employees of Corso’s Flower and Garden Center in Sandusky and Castalia, Ohio.  Those arrested are expected to face criminal charges, including identity theft and tax evasion.

About 200 ICE personnel were involved in the operations, which began at 7 a.m. and continued late into the evening.  Agents surrounded the perimeter of the Castalia locations, blocking off nearby streets as helicopters flew overhead.  Search warrants were served at both locations without incident.  They arrested 114 workers suspected of being in the country illegally and loaded many onto buses bound for ICE detention facilities.

Khaalid Walls, spokesman for ICE’s Northeastern region, said the investigation into Corso’s began in October 2017 with the arrest of a suspected document vendor.  They reviewed 313 employee records and found that 123 were suspicious.  He added that the majority of those arrested were Mexican nationals and some individuals were processed and released for humanitarian reasons.

Authorities are pursuing a bevy of allegations against Corso’s, including allegations of harboring illegal aliens, unlawful employment of aliens, false impersonation of a US citizen, fraud and aggravated identity theft, Walls said.

Steve Francis, special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations said “We are attempting to identify what criminal network brought over 100 illegal aliens to Ohio to work.”  “If your business is operating legitimately, there’s nothing to fear.  If you are hiring illegal aliens as a business model, we will identify you, arrest you and prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

In October 2017, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement Tom Homan said he ordered the investigative unit of ICE to increase work site enforcement actions by as much as fivefold.  “We’ve already increased the number of inspections in work site operations, you will see that significantly increase this next fiscal year,” Homan said at the time.  Homan also said that those actions would target both the employers and the employees in violation of immigration law.  “Not only are we going to prosecute the employers that hire illegal workers, we’re going to detain and remove the illegal alien workers.  The aggressive efforts are meant to deter people from entering the country illegally and protect jobs for American workers.”

Corso’s employee Salma Sabala told news outlets that undercover officers showed up in an employee break room initially offering to give out Dunkin’ Donuts. Then, they started rounding up workers.  “ They’re armed. They had the dogs. We hear the helicopters on top of us,” Sabala said.  Videos captured by workers and reporters showed immigration agents putting employees in handcuffs and separating authorized U.S. residents from undocumented immigrants. No employees were seen fleeing.

The 114 people arrested were taken to detention facilities in St. Clair County, Michigan; Seneca County, Ohio; and the Youngstown, Ohio, area.  Families of the arrested workers gathered at St. Paul Catholic Church in Norwalk, Ohio, seeking answers as to the whereabouts of their loved ones.