SAN FRANCISCO - U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 63 illegal alien workers on administrative immigration violations today during an enforcement action at several outlets of a Bay Area Mexican restaurant chain. The arrests, which occurred at 11 El Balazo restaurants, are part an ongoing ICE investigation.
The illegal alien workers identified during today's operation included foreign nationals from two countries - Mexico (62), and Guatemala (1). All of the individuals will be photographed, fingerprinted and processed by ICE. They are also being interviewed by ICE agents to elicit information about possible health, caregiver or other humanitarian issues, and to identify any urgent medical needs. The information aids ICE in making decisions about whether to detain an individual or permit a conditional humanitarian release.
As a result of those interviews, 10 women and one man, were released initially on humanitarian grounds, pending future immigration proceedings. The majority of the remaining illegal workers are expected to be released later today under supervision while they await an immigration hearing.
A few of the illegal aliens encountered during the enforcement action, including those who have prior criminal convictions or deportations, will be detained. They will be transferred to ICE contract detention facilities in northern California.
ICE has set up a local phone number family members of those arrested can call to get information about their relatives' detention status and the removal process. The phone number is: (415) 844-5381. During the operation, ICE agents handed out cards with that phone number to workers and workers' family members encountered at the enforcement locations. In addition, ICE contacted representatives of several prominent Hispanic community groups in the Bay Area to ensure they were aware of the enforcement action and had information about the local contact number.
Since its establishment in 2003, ICE has dramatically enhanced its efforts to combat the unlawful employment of illegal aliens in this country. ICE's comprehensive strategy for worksite enforcement is aimed at promoting national security and public safety, protecting critical infrastructure, and ensuring fair labor standards.
In fiscal year 2007, ICE made more than 4,900 arrests in connection with worksite enforcement investigations, including 863 involving criminal violations. That represents a 45-fold increase in criminal worksite arrests compared to fiscal year 2001. In addition, ICE obtained more than $31 million in criminal fines, restitutions and civil judgments in fiscal year 2007 as a result of worksite- related enforcement actions.