Federal agents detained 28 undocumented immigrants at a tent rental business in southern Florida Wednesday, according to multiple local reports. But a federal agent denied to ThinkProgress that this was an “immigration raid.”
On Wednesday, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division served a search warrant to TentLogix and asked people for legal paperwork, according to a company employee who spoke with a local Fox News affiliate. A source within HSI told ThinkProgress that agents served the business with a search warrant as part of “a criminal case” and proceeded to identify everyone. During the course of identifying workers, federal agents “encountered” 28 undocumented immigrants and detained them for administrative arrest. Despite the arrest of these immigrants, the source denied that this was an “immigration raid” and would not confirm whether other people, including citizens, were taken because this was an “ongoing criminal investigation.”
“Special agents were executing a search warrant at the business and…took in 28 people identified to be in the country illegally,” ICE spokesperson Nestor Yglesias said. “They were taken into custody by ICE’s ERO [Enforcement and Removal Operations].”
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) federal agents with the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency were also present. Authorities on scene told the local CBS news affiliate that the immigrants may not be deported due to the possibility of human trafficking. The people detained were taken away on a bus and are now being held at various places around the state.
One U.S. citizen employee told the CBS News affiliate that when he arrived at the company, immigration officials were already there and “some of his friends had their hands zip-tied and were forced to stand in a line.” He was let go after federal agents verified his legal status.
The HSI division is the main investigative agency within DHS that deals with issues like human trafficking, financial crimes, child exploitation, and document fraud. The federal agency does not solely arrest immigrants, but it does have the authority to enforce federal statutes related to immigration.
The arrests at TentLogix follow five days of enforcement action initiated by ICE’s ERO officers who arrested 271 immigrants in Florida, US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico during Operation Cross Check last week.
“Arrested individuals who have outstanding orders of deportation, or who returned to the United States illegally after being deported, are subject to immediate removal from the country,” an ICE press release read. “The remaining individuals are in ICE custody awaiting a hearing before an immigration judge, or pending travel arrangements for removal.”