59 Immigrant Hotel Workers Arrested in Raid

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By Pamela Constable
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Federal immigration officials said they arrested 59 foreign-born workers in a raid yesterday at the Lansdowne Resort in Loudoun County. The officials said the detainees, all from Latin America, were suspected of having used fraudulent or stolen documents to obtain jobs at the hotel and golf resort.

Mark McGraw, a senior regional official with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said in a statement that the raid was part of a "nationwide aggressive pursuit of unauthorized workers and employers who violate the law." Companies that use "cheap, illegal alien labor as a business model should be on notice that ICE is dramatically enhancing its enforcement efforts," he said.

Immigration officials could not be reached to confirm details of the raid, but a spokesman for the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office said last night that its officers had assisted in an ICE operation at Lansdowne. The spokesman, Kraig Troxell, also said there had been reports of buses taking groups of people away from the site.

The raid occurred less than three weeks after ICE officials raided a construction company office in Prince William County, arresting 34 Latin American nationals on suspicion of being in the United States illegally. The two operations appear to have been the largest workplace raids conducted by immigration authorities in the Washington region in the past two years.

Employees at Lansdowne, reached by phone last night, said they had no comment and would not confirm whether the raid had taken place. The resort on Woodridge Parkway offers convention facilities, golf tournaments and tours of nearby wineries.

In a written statement, ICE officials said the agency's officers questioned more than 100 workers at the resort yesterday after a lengthy investigation of employment documents and practices there.

The statement said 59 men and women from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Bolivia, Peru and Argentina were taken into custody for immigration violations and would probably be processed for deportation. It said two other women had been released for humanitarian reasons and that family members could call 866-341-3858 for information about those detained.

Immigrant advocacy groups and lawyers in the Washington area said they had not been contacted by any detainees or their relatives, but several groups said they were concerned that the raids would increase a climate of fear among legal and illegal immigrants.

ICE officials did not say whether action would be taken against the managers or owners of the resort, which is operated by Benchmark Hospitality International.

Staff writer Bill Brubaker contributed to this report.

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