Seteting a record for workplace-enforcement arrests in a single day, immigration officials took 1,187 illegal immigrants into custody at wood products plants in 26 states and charged seven company managers with crimes that can carry long prison terms, reports the Los Angeles Times. The operation targeted about 40 plants operated by IFCO Systems North America, a Dutch company based in Houston that is the nation’s largest manufacturer of wooden pallets. Wednesday’s raids came as Congress is returning from spring recess divided on how to overhaul immigration laws.
For conservative Republicans who argue for a hard-line approach that focuses on tougher enforcement, the scale of the raids could be seen as a demonstration that the Bush administration could be trusted to enforce immigration laws vigorously. Said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff: “We are going to move beyond the current level of activity to a higher level in each month and year to come.”