A raid on the Snug Harbor Seafoods processing plant in Kenai late Friday morning led to the detention of 25 illegal immigrants found to be working at the plant.
The operation was conducted by a team of U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents after a tip from an Alaska State Trooper, according to Lori Haley, a spokeswoman for ICE.
Haley said the detainees were taken to Seattle and placed in deportation proceedings.
No troopers were involved in Friday’s operation, but the tip to ICE came after a July 18 investigation of a single-car accident at the Snug Harbor facilities at Mile 14.5 of Kalifornsky Beach Road.
According to Greg Wilkinson, troopers spokesman, a trooper found the vehicle’s occupants and noticed 18 people, appearing to be of Hispanic descent, around camp trailers in the parking lot.
When the trooper asked them where they were from, they replied they were visiting from Mexico and provided the trooper with visitor’s visas. The trooper spoke with a Snug Harbor manager, then called ICE about the possibility that illegal immigrants were working there.
Haley said ICE agents conducted interviews and record checks late last week and found that to be the case. Three vans were used to transport the illegal immigrants to Anchorage, where they were then taken to Seattle.
Haley said the immigrants may face deportation but would not say if Snug Harbor would face fines or penalties.
“As far as Snug Harbor is concerned, it is an ongoing investigation,” Haley said.
A business determined to have knowingly hired illegal immigrants could face fines or federal criminal charges, Haley said. ICE has moved in recent years toward the use of federal charges, she said, because many businesses are not deterred by fines.
“In the old days, they used to slap fines on companies and they would look at it as a normal cost of business,” she said.
Paul Dale, president of Snug Harbor Seafoods Inc., said the workers had provided false documentation to the company to secure work, which began at the plant in late June.
“We hire a lot of young people locally and from all around the world,” Dale said.
Snug Harbor has been in business since 1990, he said, and has never been the target of an ICE raid.
Dale called the raid unfortunate for all parties involved.
“We regret the incident with the illegal immigrants that happened at our plant,” he said. “It was unpleasant for those young people, and it was unpleasant for us.”
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