Though the raid in Erie County in which more than 100 workers were detained from Corso’s Flower and Garden Center took place two weeks ago, the names of those who were detained and the charges against them still are not available, even to members of Congress.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, visited a detention center in Battle Creek, Mich., on Monday morning as several women who were detained in the raid are being held there. Kaptur said she met with representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, the Calhoun County (Mich.) Sheriff and others for more than two hours at the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office.
Kaptur said she asked for a list of those who were detained in the raid, but she was told it wasn’t available.
“They would not give us that list while we were sitting there, but we were promised it would be delivered as soon as they were able to, pending the investigation,” Kaptur said during a conference call with reporters after the visit.
Representatives from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Border Patrol and Homeland Security also would not say why the detainees are being held and what charges they face, but they did tell Kaptur the raid was part of an ongoing investigation.
“The issue that is at stake here is whether they had the proper documents to work,” Kaptur said. “(The detainees’) goal was not to break the law, but rather to work in a legal system. Evidently, the case that the Department of Homeland Security is preparing relates to the falsification of documents that has occurred in the greater Sandusky region. An investigation has been ongoing for a long time, related to that.
“These women were rounded up not because they had any specific charge against them, in particular, but because of this larger investigation.”
Those detained originally are from Mexico, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador.
Kaptur said 30 or 31 women, of the 38 who were detained in the Sandusky raid, were being held at the facility in Battle Creek. She said others have been sent to facilities in Ohio and elsewhere in Michigan. She also said one woman already has been deported to Mexico.
Kaptur also had an opportunity to speak to the detainees, which she said she did for 30 to 45 minutes. During that time, she learned of some of the issues the women are facing, such as one woman who is concerned about the health of her son, and another who wants to attend the funeral of her brother.
The facility does have a video phone system in which family members can communicate with those detained. Kaptur said the cost of such calls is $8 for 25 minutes and several philanthropic groups are trying to assist families with the cost.
There also is a detainee locator system available on the ICE website at https://locator.ice.gov/odls. In order to use the locater, the name of the detainee and the country of origin are required.
On June 5, ICE conducted a raid on two locations of Corso’s Flower and Garden Center, one in Sandusky and the other in Castalia. Reports have said the workers were lured by undercover agents with doughnuts. Or empty doughnut boxes, rather, as Kaptur said the detainees told her the boxes were empty.
Kaptur also said she has spoken with the owner of Corso’s who told her the business has hired attorneys to represent them in the matter who have instructed him not to discuss the subject.
Contact Scott Mahoney at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.
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