Car Wash Indictment Shows Need for Immigration Reform

The weekend raids that took place at 16 Danny’s Family Car Wash locations throughout the valley invoked fear among immigrants already on edge by years of relentless enforcement. These events came as the Obama administration treads carefully around the minefield that is immigration enforcement and as an overhaul of the country’s immigration system hangs in the balance in Congress.

Federal agents arrested 11 managers and supervisors of a local car-washing chain on immigration fraud and other charges. In all, the agents rounded up 223 people, most of them in the United States illegally. Of those, 179 were released after questioning, under a policy that gives priority to the deportation of people with criminal records or a repeated history of immigration violations. Thirty immigrants fit this profile and were placed on a path to deportation.

The raids began Saturday morning as dozens of customers lined up to have their vehicles cleaned. While some agents rounded up workers, others riffled through offices’ drawers and computers, removing evidence they hope to use to shore up their case. Three other people were named in an indictment but not yet arrested, officials said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has stepped up audits and investigations of employers in recent years in an effort to crack down on illegal immigration by reducing the job magnet that draws undocumented immigrants to the U.S. From the investigation’s start two years ago, ICE officials have had their eyes trained on the people in charge, whom they accused of running a scheme that also included identity theft and financial improprieties, in part for evading taxes on wages paid to the unauthorized workers.

None of these alleged crimes would likely have happened if the nation’s immigration system worked. They demonstrate the desperate need for immigration reform that legalizes the status of the current workforce and provides a legal mechanism to bring in needed migrant labor. Immigration reform advocates are correct to point out the need for legalization to ensure workers who are wanted and needed can stay on the right side of the law.

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