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Washington state firm upset by handling of immigration raid

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents leave the Yamato Engine Specialist plant in Bellingham, Washington, after raiding the plant for illegal aliens.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents leave the Yamato Engine Specialist plant in Bellingham, Washington, after raiding the plant for illegal aliens. Philip A. Dwyer / MCT

BELLINGHAM — After federal agents raided Yamato Engine Specialists Ltd. and detained 28 employees Tuesday, Feb. 24, company officials expressed dismay about how U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers handled the matter.

"They arrived in force," said Asiff Dhanani, a co-owner of the company at 2020 E. Bakerview Road. "They surrounded the whole perimeter."

Most of the workers detained were taken off in handcuffs, Dhanani said, except for three women who apparently were processed and released because they had children in local schools or daycare centers. The 28 made up about one-third of the engine remanufacturing company's production force.

"Some of these guys have been with us a long time," Dhanani said, adding that at least two of the workers detained Tuesday had been cleared by an earlier federal immigration audit that began in 2005 and was competed in 2006.

The arrested workers included 25 men – 22 Mexican nationals, one Salvadoran, one Guatemalan and one Honduran – and three women, all Mexican nationals, said ICE spokeswoman Lorie Dankers. She added that some of those arrested had phony documents, such as Social Security cards.

The 25 men were taken to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, and all will be entitled to a hearing before an immigration judge to determine if they have any legal grounds to remain in the U.S., Dankers said.

Shirin Dhanani Makalai, Yamato's administrative manager, said the company has done its best to comply with immigration law in its hiring practices. She provided a copy of a 2006 letter to her from ICE, over the signature of assistant special agent in charge Roy Hoffman, praising the company's compliance.

To read the complete article, visit www.bellinghamherald.com.

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