U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents served arrest warrants at 16 different car wash locations in the Phoenix area on Saturday, part of a two-year federal investigation on the Danny’s Family Car Wash chain that ICE officials say was committing alleged immigration fraud, identity theft and financial violations.
Federal investigators interviewed 223 people, arrested 14 and took 30 into custody following the raids, which started at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, according to officials.
ICE officials have stressed the raid targeted members of management and not workers.
“They can call it whatever they want but to the immigrant community it’s as fearful and impactful as a raid,” Tania Unzueta, an organizer with the immigrant rights group National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), told Fusion. “Thirty people that have nothing to do with ICE’s criminal investigation are now in deportation proceedings.”
ICE says those 30 people are high-priority cases that they will review.
"Persons who have committed a previous crime or a person that has returned to the country after being deported, that's a priority for us,” ICE spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez said at a press conference after the raid. “But someone who is in the U.S. and that is undocumented but hasn't committed any previous crimes is not a priority and will not be detained; any individual who is eligible for Deferred Action, eligible for discretion, we are going to let go free."
Unzueta says she was at one of the car wash sites within an hour of the raids starting.
“The people who were detained are mostly individuals who had past deportations and came back, or had some sort of criminal background, but in Arizona a criminal background can mean anything -- including people who were caught up in a [Maricopa County Sheriff Joe] Arpaio workplace raid and now they have a felony,” Unzueta said.
Unzueta says at least one of the detainees they’ve been able to reach was asked to sign voluntary deportation orders without speaking to an attorney first.
A woman she spoke to explained that “her husband was being asked to sign a voluntary departure and she’s been telling him not to.
"But we have no idea how many other people are being asked to do the same without any access to any sort of counsel,” Unzueta said.