A raid by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) at an Asheville-based defense contractor resulted in the arrest of 57 suspected illegal-immigrant workers, an ICE official told Xpress this afternoon.
The Mills Manufacturing Corporation, which produces parachutes for the Department of Defense, was raided around 7:30 a.m., said ICE spokesperson Ivan L. Ortiz-Delgado. Ortiz-Delgado would not divulge details of the investigation, but said that “we have been working on this for awhile.” (The plant is pictured here in a file photo by Jonathan Welch.)
Meanwhile, an e-mail from Asheville City Council member Carl Mumpower indicates he may have supplied a tip-off to federal authorities after he was contacted by a Mills Manufacturing employee.
“We developed a connection with ICE in Charlotte on Mills Manufacturing. I am grateful for their follow through and will continue to press this issue,” Mumpower wrote in an e-mail. Mumpower is known in Council meetings for his vocal stance against undocumented workers.
Ortiz-Delgado said the manufacturing plant itself is not under investigation because the suspected illegal workers produced fraudulent documents when applying for jobs there.
“We don’t expect [the company] to be document experts,” he said. “We could say Mills is a victim too.”
Ortiz-Delgado said the arrestees were processed at the Henderson County Jail, and that 29 were released because of health or child-care issues. Those released were served summons to appear before an immigration judge to determine if they will be deported. The remaining 28 will be detained until their court appearances.
Though a press release announcing the raid was circulated by the city of Asheville’s communication department, the city was not involved in the operation, according to an e-mail by Lauren Bradley, assistant to the City Manager. According to that press release, anyone wanting information on family members arrested in the raid should call ICE at (704) 679-6140.
The press release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the e-mail from Mumpower, can be found below.
(In August 2007, Xpress reporter Hal L. Millard wrote this story on local defense contractors, including the Mills Manufacturing plant.)
— Brian Postelle, staff writer
ICE arrests illegal aliens employed by Asheville Department of Defense Contractor
ASHEVILLE, NC. – Special agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are in the process of conducting a targeted enforcement operation at Mills Manufacturing Corporation (MMC), a military government contractor responsible for the manufacturing of parachutes for the Department of Defense.
The operation is based on an ICE investigation that has revealed that illegal aliens are employed at MMC. The company is not a target of the investigation and has been fully cooperative.
Because agents are still in the process of apprehending illegal alien workers, an arrest total is not available at this time. We will be able to provide more information later today with arrest totals.
ICE special agents are extensively questioning detainees to determine if there are humanitarian concerns. Child care and medical issues will be evaluated carefully on a case-by-case basis.
Family members wanting information regarding those arrested today may contact ICE by dialing (704) 679-6140.
# ICE #
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was established in March 2003 as the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security. ICE is comprised of five integrated divisions that form a 21st century law enforcement agency with broad responsibilities for a number of key homeland security priorities.
To: LBradley@ashevillenc.gov, AshevilleNCCouncil@ashevillenc.gov
CC: GJackson@ashevillenc.gov, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sent: 8/12/2008 9:19:07 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: Re: ICE operation at Mills Manufacturing
Thanks for passing on this news. A Mills Manufacturing employee contacted me some weeks ago when I raised concerns about the County and City overlooking the majority of workers on the parking garage, water upgrades, and other major downtown projects not speaking English – with the probability that most were not legal workers. We developed a connection with ICE in Charlotte on Mills Manufacturing. I am grateful for their follow-through and will continue to press this issue.
As an aside – my parachute in Vietnam was made by Mills Manufacturing in Asheville. It is wrong that this company has so flagrantly ignored immigration law and the importance of employing American workers.
Asheville City Council