Immigration Agents Arrest 33 Workers in Raid at Site of New U.S. Courthouse

By Pamela Constable
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 8, 2008

Federal immigration agents raided the construction site of a new federal courthouse in Richmond on Monday, arresting 33 workers on charges of violating federal immigration laws and being in the United States illegally, officials said yesterday.

Ernestine Fobbs, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, said the 29 men and four women who were arrested were from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru. All were found to lack documents that would allow them to live or work in the United States, Fobbs said.

Officials had received information that illegal immigrants were working at the site, Fobbs said. The investigation is ongoing, and no information was available about the employers, she said. Those arrested were being processed for deportation.

According to radio reports, federal agents and Virginia State Police officers surrounded the work site about 8 a.m. and rounded up about 50 workers while others attempted to hide inside the half-built complex. The reports said that officials were still searching the site hours later and that the remaining workers were required to wear wristbands showing that their IDs had been found valid.

Aaron Samsel, a representative of the Virginia Immigrant People's Coalition in Richmond, said his organization and others would be available to assist relatives and friends of the arrested workers if they contact the Hispanic Liaison Office in Richmond at 804-646-0145. He said the groups would provide food, day-care services and help in obtaining information about the detained workers.

The raid was the third roundup of illegal immigrant workers in Virginia in the past two months. On April 8, federal agents arrested 59 Hispanic workers at the Lansdowne Resort in Loudoun County on charges of immigration violations and said most would be deported. In March, immigration officials arrested 43 Latin American immigrants at a construction site in Manassas.

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