U.S. agents remove records from Sun Drywall and Stucco in Sierra Vista as part of their investigation of the company’s hiring practices.
Ed Honda / Sierra Vista Herald
Seven Sun Drywall managers and employees were arrested Friday on federal charges of conspiracy to knowingly hire illegal aliens, and conspiracy to harbor illegal aliens.
• Ivan Hardt, 44, president, of Sierra Vista.
• Carol Hill, 42, human resource manager, of Sierra Vista.
• Jose Gutierrez-Tapia Sr., 50, foreman, of Bisbee.
• Joaquin J. Neave, 42, manager, of Sierra Vista.
• Efrain Silvain-Avechuco, 36, manager, of Mexico.
• Omar Reyes, 25, employee, of Sierra Vista.
• Edward Ramirez Durgin, foreman.
• Santiago Trejo-Ramirez, foreman (still at large).
Alonzo Peña – ICE special agent in charge in Phoenix
Commentary: It appears the tide may in fact be starting to turn. We are all quite aware that until we stop providing employment to the illegal aliens, we’ll never be able to stop the mass migration that is over burdening our state and country. I have always maintained that I have NEVER had a problem trying to find a legal U.S. citizen to dig a ditch, mend a fence, mow a yard, or even install drywall and stucco. For an employer to say, “I can’t get an American to do this job.” Is a lame ass excuse for what he’s really saying, which is, “I can’t get anyone else to work for the criminally low wages I’m willing to pay.” Usually followed by the self justifying thought, “The market won’t allow me to pay higher wages.” We are all victims of our own insanity. Greed is what started it, greed is what has kept feeding it. Until we all buck up and start raising our prices a little so as to start raising our wages a little, we will continue to deal with illegal immigration and all the added financial strain it puts on the economy. My next post will deal with the history of Mexican migrant workers in the southwest United States during the past century. You will see some very interesting trends there.
Side Note: Is the main stream media running out of words for Illegal Alien? What the hell is an “entrant”.
7 held in crackdown on hiring of entrants
By Brady McCombs Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 03.10.2007
The 44-year-old president of a Sierra Vista drywall company and six others managers who investigators say conspired with fraudulent-document makers to hire and protect dozens of illegal immigrants were arrested Friday.
The arrests culminated a 16-month multi-agency investigation of the 165-employee Sun Drywall and Stucco Inc., with Immigration and Customs Enforcement spearheading the investigation.
On Friday morning in Sierra Vista, nearly 200 law enforcement officers served 11 federal search warrants at 37 locations, including the company headquarters and eight Sun Drywall sites.
Agents arrested president Ivan Hardt, human resources manager Carol Hill, 42, and four others at company headquarters. They arrested another manager Friday afternoon on a Southern Arizona highway
Another manager charged in the investigation remained at large Friday. The eight could serve up to five years in prison if convicted on federal criminal charges of hiring and harboring illegal immigrants.
Agents arrested 10 Mexican illegal immigrants Friday — seven who worked for the company, one who was at the work site who worked for a different framing company, and two women who were illegally in the country but didn’t work for any company, said Lauren Mack, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman. During the course of the investigation, agents arrested 32 other people who were illegally working for the company.
The bust, which marks the first criminal charges brought against an employer in Arizona, illustrates the new work-site enforcement strategy being carried out by ICE.
“We believe this is far more effective than the deterrence of fines,” said Alonzo Peña, ICE special agent in charge in Phoenix, at an afternoon press conference in Tucson at the Evo DeConcini Federal Courthouse. “The prospect of serving prison times carries sharper teeth.”
In the past three years, the agency has shifted its focus from employer fines — which many businesses considered no more than a cost of doing business — to criminal prosecutions that can result in prison time and asset forfeitures.
After the 2001 terror attacks, the government’s employment enforcement efforts centered primarily on work sites with implications for national security — nuclear plants, military bases, airports and chemical plants.
The number of criminal arrests at work sites has increased from 25 in 2002 to 716 in 2006, officials said.
Friday’s bust follows a string of crackdowns on employers across the country in the last 11 months since the Department of Homeland Security announced in April 2006 that it would target employers.
The arrests have a sent a message that the government is serious about immigration enforcement and put employers on notice, said Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank that advocates for comprehensive immigration changes.
“What stings is when they try to put the president or the owner behind bars,” Papademetriou said. “It doesn’t mean that the next employer is going to fire all of their undocumented workers, but what it does it mean is they are going to be more vigilant.”
Politically, the nationwide crackdown on employers also gives the Bush administration capital in its quest to pass immigration laws that include a path to legalization for some of the estimated 10 million to 12 million illegal immigrants, said Papademetriou and Steve Camarota, director of research for the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based organization that seeks to halt illegal immigration.
“The administration is trying to show it’s serious about enforcement to get its amnesty or legalization,” Camarota said.
The culture of acceptance for illegal workers won’t change until the agency systematically goes after employers who are hiring illegal immigrants, whether it be five or 500, he said.
“The little fish are in the sea in which the big fish swim,” Camarota said. “It’s the general contempt for the rule of law, the widespread acceptance of illegal immigration at the small employers that allows the spectacular cases to happen.”
The investigation of Sun Drywall began in November 2005 after officials spotted a trend of deported illegal immigrants who claimed to have worked at the company, Peña said.
In December 2005, during an audit of the company’s employee records, agents found 11 workers who were using fraudulent green cards, according to the criminal complaint against the company.
ICE agents told Hardt and Hill to get rid of the workers, but they continued to employ them, the complaint reads. Investigators also found other workers using fraudulent green cards with numbers that belonged to other people.
Three people were arrested Friday on state charges of making and selling fraudulent documents in connection with the case.
The Pew Hispanic Center has estimated that 10 percent of all workers in Arizona’s economy are illegal immigrants, a figure that federal officials have called conservative.
Officials hope busts such as Friday’s motivate employers to stop hiring illegal immigrants.
“Those who don’t, we will come looking for you,” Peña said. “We have other cases that are already in the pipeline.”
The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office, Sierra Vista police and the Border Patrol assisted with the arrests.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.