Yamato Workers Freed As Immigration Probe Continues Into Bellingham Company

John Stark, Bellingham (Washington) Herald, March 31, 2009

Many if not all workers detained in the Feb. 24 immigration raid at Yamato Engine Specialists have been released from the federal detention center in Tacoma.

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“I can confirm that many of the individuals .&Nbsp;. . have indeed been released pending the further investigation of Yamato Engine,” said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Lorie Dankers.

Besides their freedom, the workers also have permission to look for work.

The workers have been given a document advising them “that per the Assistant United States Attorney assigned to this case, all persons involved with the Yamato Engine Specialists . . . should be afforded the benefit of Deferred Action and an Employment Authorization Document, valid for the duration of this case.”

The workers also have the option of declining the release and work permit offer and returning to their home country.

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President Barack Obama and his Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, have indicated they want to shift immigration enforcement policy away from workplace raids that target workers, cracking down instead on the employers who hire those workers.

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ICE officers arrested 28 workers in last month’s raid. Three were women who were released later in the day to care for their children, pending a hearing on their immigration status. Guillen said two others have already been deported, but all of the rest have now been released.

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Guillen said the freeing of workers was surprising, because those detained in immigration raids can expect to be jailed for months to await a hearing, unless they can post large amounts of bail or are willing to accept immediate return to their homelands.

While the release of the workers is a welcome development, Guillen also expressed concern that the workers are being confronted with complex legal decisions about the consequences of cooperating in a federal investigation, without having lawyers to represent them. She said the workers have been told to expect further questioning from Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

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