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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raided a Texas cellphone repair company Wednesday, in what Homeland Security officials are calling the largest work site raid in the country in more than a decade.
ICE arrested 280 employees of CVE Technology Group Inc. on immigration charges. The company is in the Texas city of Allen, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of Dallas.
The investigation started after special agents with ICE's Homeland Security Investigations division (HSI) received tips CVE was hiring undocumented people. ICE said some of those employed by the tech company were using fake documents.
A business that knowingly hires undocumented workers "creates an unfair advantage over their competing businesses," HSI Special Agent Katrina W. Berger said in a statement.
HSI began an audit of CVE's hiring practices in January 2019. The audit confirmed numerous hiring irregularities.
Berger also said the practice creates "an atmosphere poised for exploiting their illegal workforce."
CVE's website is down. VOA could not reach the company for comment.
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in a statement to reporters said the organization is working non-stop to help undocumented workers arrested Wednesday.
Domingo Garcia, LULAC's national president, said the operation was tragic and unnecessary.
"Mothers were separated from their children, husbands and parents. … All they were doing, when ICE agents swooped down on them with guns and badges, was standing at assembly lines working on making cellphones," he added.
According to media reports, the raid did not take place quietly. CVE employee Yessenia Ponce told NPR that it was "crazy," and people were working like it was a "normal day" when ICE agents conducted the raid.
"We just heard screaming, you know, people screaming and stuff. We went out and an officer just said, 'Follow my voice, follow my voice,'" Ponce said.
Hotline for relatives
Those arrested Wednesday are expected to be interviewed by ICE staff to record and note any medical, sole-caregiver or other humanitarian situations.
"Based on these interviews, ICE will determine if those arrested remain in custody or are considered for humanitarian release. In all cases, all illegal aliens encountered will be fingerprinted and processed for removal from the United States," according to an official statement.
A 24-hour, toll-free detainee locator hotline is available. Relatives who call (888) 351-4024 can find people's detention location and status, and the removal process. This hotline operates in English and Spanish.
HSI said the operation was an effort from federal, state and local officials, including the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Texas, and ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations.
Aline Barros is an immigration reporter for VOA’s News Center in Washington, D.C. Before joining VOA in 2016, Aline worked for the Gazette Newspapers and Channel 21 Montgomery Community Media, both in Montgomery County, Md. She has been published by the Washington Post, G1 Portal Brazilian News, and Fox News Latino. Aline holds a broadcast journalism degree from University of Maryland. Follow her @AlineBarros2.