Illegal Workers Arrested

Brent Jones, Baltimore Sun, March 20, 2007

Federal agents arrested 69 employees in raids yesterday on Baltimore area businesses—including sportswear fashion maker Under Armour Inc.—that officials said employed illegal immigrants provided by a temporary employment agency.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement targeted Jones Industrial Network, a staffing company downtown, and seized $630,000 from its bank account as agents hauled off workers from eight local businesses in buses and vans.

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Federal officials said their investigation focuses on the temp agency. They said none of the other businesses—including Under Armour and Dixie Printing and Packaging Corp.—is a target.

But the morning raids around the city thrust the companies into an unflattering spotlight. Under Armour is a Baltimore success story, having grown from a basement operation started by Kevin Plank more than a decade ago to a multimillion-dollar international company. Wall Street often praises Under Armour for its innovative products—athletic wear that wicks away sweat from the body.

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Jones Industrial Network executives were not arrested in the raid or charged with a crime, but immigration officials said they have not ruled out criminal charges.

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According to the company’s Internet site, Jones has the ability to send hundreds of workers to a workplace at once. The company has done work for the Maryland Department of Education and for the State Highway Administration.

Immigration officials would not say whether Jones intentionally hired illegal workers. The arrested workers toiled mostly as manual labors, immigration officials said.

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Many of the detainees are from Central American countries, including El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica. They are being held at the York County Prison in Pennsylvania and the Dorchester County and Worcester County detention centers, immigration officials said.

By late afternoon, word of the arrests spread throughout the city’s Latino community, and advocacy groups held a news conference to denounce the arrests.

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A judge will ultimately determine whether any of the detainees would be removed from the country.

Other companies raided yesterday were: Tessco Technology, BP Castro, Baltimore Metal and Commodities of Baltimore County; C Steinweg, Beacon Stevedoring and Pritchard Brown of Baltimore.

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