The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) detained 26 workers after a raid conducted at a Korean market in San Diego, California.
ICE officials raided Zion Market, a Korean grocery store on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard, on February 13, temporarily detaining 26 undocumented workers according to NBC 7 San Diego.
The federal enforcement agency, along with Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) agents, noted that this was part of their “worksite enforcement strategy” to enforce laws regarding the “hiring and employment of individuals not legally authorized to work in the United States.”
“It’s a compliance measure for us to ensure employers are actually hiring people that are legally in the country and eligible to work,” HSI Special Agent David Shaw said while speaking to NBC 7 San Diego, but refused to comment on the operation on Wednesday.
He also added that businesses that employ people working illegally in the U.S. could encourage other illegal activities.
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“Some of these folks are trafficked, some of these folks are smuggled in – there’s more money laundering that goes with some of these cases too,” he added.
“So, if someone is smuggled into the country, and all of the sudden you pay me $10,000 to get into the country and now you don’t have the $10,000, well, now, guess what? I’m going to make you work, so it becomes a trafficking case too,”
Shaw said, according to the Los Angeles Times
The temporarily detained workers were mostly of Latino and Asian descent, said Zion Market front manager Yongho Jun, according to AsAm News.
A detained worker recounted the raid to Telemundo 20, telling the station that he and other workers hid inside a room after seeing the agents come into the store.
After finding the room, the agents tried to tell them to come out. When the workers refused, the officers reportedly broke the door down.
ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack said that a majority of the 26 detained workers were released later that same day.
However, three who were suspected of having criminal records remained under custody.
“The intent was they would be detained and released today pending the outcome of their immigration case,” Mack said.