By ALEX DOMINGUEZ
The Associated Press
Friday, March 30, 2007; 1:14 AM
BALTIMORE -- Immigration agents arrested 69 people Thursday in raids on a temporary employment agency's offices and places where it hired out illegal immigrant workers, including the port of Baltimore, authorities said.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents also seized a bank account containing more than $600,000 from the employment agency, Jones Industrial Network.
The company's offices and eight other businesses were searched, including three where the temp agency is suspected of providing illegal immigrant workers, ICE said.
The investigation began last year after immigration officials heard that temp agencies had provided illegal immigrants workers to the port of Baltimore and other unwitting employers, ICE said.
Having "illegal aliens working and having access to our ports is a major security vulnerability," said James Dinkins, ICE special agent in charge.
A telephone call seeking comment from the company was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon. The employment agency's offices downtown near the Inner Harbor were closed Thursday, with a sign in English and Spanish saying the company would not be open.
Family members of those detained gathered with activists outside the company's offices, carrying signs that read "Stop Dividing Our Families," "Stop The Raids," and "Fair Immigration Reform Now."
Daysi Lopez, 24, said the school her 7-year-old brother attends called her house after her mother didn't pick him up because she had been arrested. Jesenia Lazo held her sister-in-law's four-month-old child, David Lazo, who had not been breast-fed since his mother was arrested.
"The child was born here, he is only four months old," Lazo said in Spanish. "We are asking the people from immigration to please return them."
Lazo said her three sisters-in-law work at Under Armour, folding and packing clothing.
Authorities did not release the identities of those arrested, but said Jones managers were not arrested or charged. ICE officials said the investigation is continuing, however.
Jones is the only company that has been targeted criminally, and all others involved in the raids have cooperated, ICE officials said.
A lawyer for sportswear maker Under Armour Inc., which also was raided, said the Baltimore company was not aware that employees were illegal immigrants.
The company has cooperated fully with the investigation and is considering legal action against the temp agency, Under Armour general counsel Kevin Haley said.
"At Under Armour, we are patriots first and last, and we're fully committed to compliance with all laws and regulations," Haley said. "We're furious that apparently one of the temp agencies we use was not so committed or gave the appearance of being not so committed."
The workers were employed at the company's distribution center, Haley said.
An ICE spokesman said 20 of those detained were granted humanitarian release.
ICE field office director Calvin McCormick said those detained were being transferred to three detention centers in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Immigration officials said state and federal officials would interview the detainees to determine whether any medical, sole-caregiver or other issues would qualify them for humanitarian release. Relatives of the detainees can call a 24-hour toll-free hot line, 866-341-3858.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick this month urged federal authorities not to move out of that state any more factory workers detained in an immigration raid until their children were located and arrangements made for their care. More than 300 people were detained for possible deportation in a raid at a leather factory that makes equipment for the military.