EL PASO, Texas – Eight Mexican nationals, who were living and working illegally in the United States, remain in custody after their arrest last week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
The eight defendants include: Elvia Padilla, 24; Marcela Padilla, 26; Cesario Eduardo Mejia, 50; Jesus Castro, 39; Juan Manuel Martinez-Olivas, 37; Maria Del Refugio Batrez-Villanueva, 40; Oscar Rivera, 33, and Beatriz Villalobos Del Castillo, 54. They all lived in El Paso, and worked for an area restaurant chain, whose owners are cooperating with HSI special agents.
Special agents assigned to the HSI El Paso Public Safety Group identified the eight illegal aliens during a routine Form I-9 audit of local businesses as part of Operation Backstop.
Federal law requires that every employer complete a Form I-9, which is used to verify the identity and employment authorization of newly hired individuals for employment in the United States. Both employees and employers must complete the form.
Employers must retain the Form I-9 for a designated period and make it available for inspection by authorized government officers, such as HSI special agents.
According to court documents, the defendants in this case lied on their Form I-9 after they were hired. They falsely stated they were legal residents of the United States. Additionally, they presented false documents to their employer. Among the documents they presented were counterfeit Social Security cards and U.S. resident alien cards.
"Individuals who use fraudulent documents to circumvent our nation’s immigration laws pose a severe threat to national security and public safety, said Dennis A. Ulrich, special agent in charge of HSI El Paso. "Identity fraud creates a vulnerability that may enable terrorists, criminals and illegal aliens to gain entry to and remain in the United States."
All defendants, except for Castro, were arrested May 9 at or near their residences. Castro was arrested May 8 after leaving work at a nearby convenience store. All eight remain in federal custody.
Castro is scheduled to have his detention hearing in federal court May 14. The other seven will have their hearings May 15.