SCRANTON, Pa. - An immigration raid at a Wal-Mart distribution center under construction led to the arrests of 125 illegal workers, all of whom will be deported, federal officials said Friday.
The workers from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico were detained Thursday at the construction site in eastern Pennsylvania, according to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. Some of the 125 used fake documents to obtain employment with subcontractors, officials said.
The arrests came after search warrants were executed for six companies at the site outside Pottsville, about 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
"Employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens, and those who utilize false documents to gain employment, face significant criminal and administrative charges," John Kelleghan, acting special agent-in-charge for ICE in Pennsylvania, said in a statement.
Agents obtained the search warrants after learning that 10 workers employed by Destin Drywall & Paint were using Social Security numbers that did not match their names. Another three used Social Security numbers that were never issued by the government, according to an affidavit unsealed Friday at U.S. District Court in Scranton.
Houston-based Destin has worked on Wal-Mart projects around the country, according to office manager Cindy Wyman. She said the company verifies that employees are permitted to work in the United States.
"As far as I know, their Social Security numbers are good," Wyman said of the Pennsylvania workers.
A Wal-Mart spokesman has said the detained workers were not employed by Wal-Mart but by the subcontractors. Wal-Mart's contracts with the companies require that they follow local, state and federal employment laws, the company said.
The Pennsylvania job site remains shut down, Wal-Mart spokesman Marty Heires said Friday. He did not know when construction would resume.
Last month, Wal-Mart shut down work on seven stores under construction in North Dakota to check for illegal aliens after two illegal immigrants working on Wal-Mart projects in Bismarck were charged with molesting two 13-year-old girls. Charges against one of the suspects were dropped after authorities found out he was a juvenile.
In 2003, a raid of 60 Wal-Mart stores in 21 states led to the arrests of 245 illegal workers. An affidavit claimed a pair of senior Wal-Mart executives knew cleaning contractors were hiring illegal immigrants. The retailer agreed to pay $11 million in March to settle the case but denied senior executives knew of the hirings.