By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law PLLC



If there was any feeling that the Bean Station raid was isolated and motivated by the IRS, those feelings are gone with this week’s raids by ICE of Corso’s Flower and Garden Center in Sandusky, Ohio and Castalia, Ohio. This is the second ICE raid in two months with the earlier one occurring at a meat slaughterhouse in Bean Station, Tennessee.

On Tuesday, June 5, approximately 200 ICE agents swarmed these two plant nurseries and detained approximately 114 workers suspected of being in the country without proper work authorization. The workers were taken to various detention facilities in Michigan and Ohio, where they are expected to be placed into deportation proceedings and many are expected to be criminally charged with identity theft and tax evasion.

An unknown number of detainees were released for a variety of humanitarian reasons, "including health, or primary care for a minor child", according to ICE spokesman Khaalid Walls.

One interesting twist is before ICE agents entered the Sandusky facility, an undercover officer entered the store with three boxes of donuts. After a mass of employees gathered for the donuts, ICE agents entered the store.

So, what happened to Corso’s? Company officials were not arrested during the raids. However, ICE agents, who had a criminal search warrant, carried boxes full of “documentary evidence,” out of Corso’s, according to Steve Francis, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Ohio. Francis also stated, “We are attempting to identify what criminal network brought over 100 illegal aliens to Ohio to work.”

This raid was unlike the previous raid in Bean Station because ICE initially served Notices of Inspection weeks ago and had been auditing the 313 I-9 forms supplied by Corso’s. Before the service of the Notices of Inspection, ICE had been receiving tips into Corso’s Flower and Garden Center and began an investigation in October 2017. A triggering event was the arrest and indictment of Martha Buendia-Chavarria, who was charged with operating a document mill.

During the ICE audit, according to ICE, they found 123 I-9 forms which were suspicious due to use of duplicate Social Security numbers and identification belonging to other people. Presumably, these identification documents were produced by Ms. Buendia-Chavarria. Thus, when the ICE agents raided the facilities, they had a list of names they had targeted for detention.

According to a local Latino advocacy group, dozens of the workers’ children were left stranded at day-care centers and with babysitters because their parents had been detained.

Amazingly, Corso’s business was back up and running Tuesday afternoon. According to its website, the family-owned business includes a greenhouse, flower shop, garden center, landscape department and a wholesale perennial plant division where more than two million plants are grown to supply a seven-state area.

After these raids, it is clear that employer raids will be a frequent tool of ICE. Every employer should be vigilant in their immigration compliance. I would advise employers to meet with their immigration counsel, or obtain immigration counsel, to conduct an internal I-9 audit and draft or review an immigration compliance policy.

If you want to know more information on employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.