By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

On August 8, 2018, in a multi-state operation, covering Nebraska and Minnesota, Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), raided numerous workplaces serving a series of criminal search warrants and criminal arrest warrants. The raids were the result of a 15-month investigation into companies allegedly knowingly hiring undocumented workers, who were using fraudulent identification belonging to U.S. citizens.

As a result of these raids, 17 individuals were arrested for an alleged criminal conspiracy to exploit illegal alien laborers for profit, fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in Nebraska and Minnesota. HSI believes the alleged conspirators colluded to create an illegal alien workforce in their respective businesses. In addition to these arrest warrants, authorities also identified 133 employees who were subject to arrest for immigration violations and were unlawfully working at these businesses. These individuals had been illegally residing and working in the United States and may also have been exploited as part of this alleged criminal conspiracy.

By colluding to create an illegal alien workforce in their respective businesses, the 17 individuals defrauded the U.S. government and created an unfair advantage over their competition businesses. Additionally, authorities suspect the illegal aliens who were knowingly hired as part of this alleged conspiracy were exploited by the conspirators through force, coercion, or threat of arrest and/or deportation. Specifically, these illegal aliens were allegedly required to cash their paychecks at an illegal remittance business for a fee, have tax money deducted from their pay even though this money was never paid to the government, and were coerced to remain quiet about this criminal activity.

Search warrants were served at the following businesses and locations:

Christensen Farms in Appleton, Minnesota; Sleepy Eye, Minnesota; and Atkinson, Nebraska;

Elkhorn River Farms in O’Neill, Nebraska;

O’Neill Ventures in O’Neill, Nebraska;

La Herradura Restaurant in O’Neill, Nebraska;

El Mercadito in O’Neill, Nebraska;

La Herradura Restaurant in Stromsburg, Nebraska;

GJW LLC with three locations in Ainsworth, Nebraska;

J.E. Meurets Grain Company in Ainsworth, Nebraska; and

Herd Co. Cattle Company in Bartlett, Nebraska.

“The job magnet in the United States is primarily what draws illegal aliens across our borders,” said Special Agent in Charge Tracy J. Cormier, HSI St. Paul, which oversees Nebraska and Minnesota. “This HSI-led criminal investigation has shown that these targeted businesses were knowingly hiring illegal workers to unlawfully line their own pockets by cheating the workers, cheating the taxpayers, and cheating their business competitors.”

The illegal aliens who remain in ICE custody after being administratively arrested on immigration violations will be transported to a nearby processing facility and placed in removal proceedings. Detained aliens will be held in facilities in Nebraska and Minnesota while awaiting removal proceedings.

These workplace raids are a continuation of the new policy in the Trump administration of a return to workplace raids. Earlier this year, ICE conducted raids in Tennessee and Ohio. It is expected these ICE raids will continue throughout the Trump administration.

If you want to know more information on methods to defend yourself from workplace raids and other issues involving 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