U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents made more than 100 arrests Tuesday at Corso’s Flower and Garden Center in northern Ohio, aided by about 200 law enforcement workers, in one of the largest employer stings in recent years, according to a story on Yahoo.com.
Corso’s Flower and Garden Center is part of the Corso’s family of businesses that includes Corso’s Perennials, No. 55 on Greenhouse Grower’s 2018 Top 100 Growers list, with more than 1.3 million square feet of environmentally controlled production.
The 114 arrests occurred at two Corso’s Flower & Garden Center locations, one in Sandusky, OH, and another in nearby Castalia.
No criminal charges have been filed against Corso’s, but the employer is under investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said. Two locations were searched, and Khaalid Walls, an agency spokesman, said, “a large volume of business documents” were seized.
The large-scale operation, assisted by aerial surveillance, is part of the Trump administration’s increasing focus on employers that hire people in the country illegally, one that took hold about a year after the president took office, and came months after a surge in deportation arrests began.
According to Craig Regelbrugge, AmericanHort’s Senior Vice President for Industry Advocacy, ICE raids such as this one date back to previous administrations, and whether the focus has been on the employees or the employers, the end result is the same: workers lose their livelihoods, and the company’s future is threatened,
“We have gone to the Department of Homeland Security and told them that in the absence of a real solution to the immigration problem, enforcement activities do more harm than good,” Regelbrugge says. “While these agencies are technically correct in enforcing the laws, is this really the best use of their power?”
Other growers who might be concerned about the same thing happening to them should take two steps, Regelbrugge says.
“Job one is to make sure your house is in order with respect to compliance, and making sure you’re diligent in verifying your workers’ documentation,” Regelbrugge says. “Next, you need to consider what you would do if there were a major interruption in your workforce, and whether you are equipped to handle it.”
Regelbrugge also notes that AmericanHort has reached out to Corso’s and offered its support and its resources.
Read the full Yahoo! story here.
** Update from June 7, 2018 ** According to a story on Cleveland-based WKYC.com, the raid this week on Corso’s began further south in Marion, OH, where 44-year-old Martha Buendia Chavarria operated a document mill.
By stealing identities of those in Puerto Rico or using the information of the recently deceased she produced Social Security cards and birth certificates for people looking to work at Corso’s Flower & Garden Center.
“She would help somebody that was looking for some fraudulent documents to turn into an employer,” says Immigrations & Customs Enforcement spokesman Khaalid Walls.
“Today’s effort was essentially the opening salvo of the investigation,” Walls said. “There’s a considerable amount of investigation that has to follow this.”