23 suspected illegal immigrants arrestedTwenty-three workers for a Fargo construction company suspected of being illegal immigrants were arrested after their employer tipped off authorities, federal prosecutors said. An advocate for the workers said they are victims of human trafficking.
By: By Dave Kolpack, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — Twenty-three workers for a Fargo construction company suspected of being illegal immigrants were arrested after their employer tipped off authorities, federal prosecutors said. An advocate for the workers said they are victims of human trafficking.
The men were helping to build a Casselton ethanol plant and were taken into custody without incident Tuesday morning while attending a meeting, U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley said at a press conference.
Wrigley said they will be formally charged Friday with possessing counterfeit documents.
The leader of a Louisiana worker’s group who heard about the arrests told The Associated Press that the men came to the United States from India to help rebuild after Hurricane Katrina and were victims of a human trafficking scheme.
“They paid $20,000 apiece to recruiters and were promised green cards and permanent residency,” said Saket Sony, director of the New Orleans Worker’s Center for Racial Justice. He didn’t know how they wound up in North Dakota.
Wrigley said he was aware of the allegations of human trafficking.
“It was looked into,” he said. He had no further comment.
Wrigley said the workers had obtained driver’s licenses from other states and were using phony Social Security cards. The group came into the country legally, on limited status, he said.
Wrigley said the driver’s licenses were from Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi and Nebraska. “That provides them that second form of identification when they come in and adds the appearance of legitimacy to what they’re doing,” he said.
The men had been working at Wanzek Construction Inc. “for a matter of months,” Wrigley said.
“(Company officials) have cooperated throughout the investigation in this case and they are to be complimented for making this investigation possible at all through their initial report,” Wrigley said.
The Friday hearing for the workers is at the Cass County Jail, where they are being held, rather than the federal courthouse.
“There’s some logistical difficulties, as you might imagine, with a case that involves 23 defendants all coming in en masse like this,” Wrigley said.