NY Times: U.S. officials defend fake OSHA sting

More on the immigration agency’s sting tactic, and on a similar but abandoned tactic by Houston police,
Following up on my posting a few days ago, I see that the New York Times (subscription may be required) today ran an article about the controversial tactic of immigration officials to conduct sting operations by impersonating OHSA training officials. The tactic appears to be focused on workers at defense installations and appears to assume that terrorists may gain access to critical defense installations through cleaning and grounds keeping contractors, and then exploit the vulernabilities of illegal immigrants.
ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) used the tactic in July, 2005, to lure and arrest workers from Latin America and Europe working at Seymour Johnson Air Force near Goldsboro, in North Carolina.
I have found one other use of sting tactics to arrest undocumented workers – an operation by the Houston police department in 2005, which it said it will not repeat (see below).
And in Chicago, federal and other law enforcement agencies undertook in 2003 a massive non-sting search for terrorism suspects – to in the end arrest undocumented people working as food service workers and such, none of whom had terrorist connections (see below).


An immigration spokesman said this to the New York Times reporter:

Dean Boyd, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, emphasized that ruses were standard law enforcement policy. “We’re not going to rule out valid investigative techniques,” he said.
Mr. Boyd said that if immigration officials were to do such a sting in the future, it would be only after coordinating with federal safety officials.

The Times article went onto to say that

OSHA officials repeated yesterday the stance they took after the July raid, saying the agency worked to build trust with Hispanic workers. They also said they did not condone using the agency’s name in this type of ruse.

Mr. Boyd said the employment of illegal immigrants at sensitive facilities like military bases posed a serious threat to domestic security. He said that, given their illegal status, they might be vulnerable to exploitation by criminals or terrorists.

In Houston, the chief of police reported decided in late 2005 not repeat a sting operation against undocumented workers. According to the Houston Chronicle,

Members of an HPD tactical unit dressed up as contractors and arrested 30 day laborers near the corner of Shepherd and Washington. The men were charged with soliciting work in the roadway, a misdemeanor.

In a meeting with activists Monday, [Chief of Police Harold] Hurtt said he wants to build trust with immigrants, and he was concerned about the way the operation was handled, according to a police spokesman.

The Chicago Reporter wrote that the results of a massive effort in 2003 to find terrorists in the air transportation field ended with no terrorism suspects — but with a lot of undocumented workers.

….. An examination of Operation Chicagoland Skies, drawn from court files and a series of interviews by The Chicago Reporter, reveals that the “web of terrorism prevention” has largely come up empty.

Instead, after reviewing records for tens of thousands of workers at O’Hare and Midway airports, federal agents mostly rounded up undocumented immigrants, some of whom had obtained fake Social Security cards or passports. Others were U.S. citizens who had concealed prior criminal convictions.

Among those swept up were janitors, food service employees, a baggage handler, truck drivers and other low-level airport workers—45 in all. During raids of some workers’ homes, an additional eight undocumented immigrants were arrested.

Much of the work consisted of painstaking reviews of more than 84,000 records on multiple fronts: The immigration status of the workers was verified by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service; criminal background checks were performed by the FBI to weed out convicted felons; and the authenticity of Social Security numbers listed on badge applications was examined by the U.S. Social Security Administration. In the end, investigators found discrepancies in the information provided on 553 applications, a discovery that has since led to the arrests of 45 people

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