Illegal immigration raid at dairy farm pays off for police

12:31 PM, March 7, 2013
By Tresa Baldas
Detroit Free Press Staff Writer

An immigration raid at a Michigan dairy farm turned into some big cash gifts for two state police agencies, which received more than half a million dollars from the federal government for helping investigate and expose unlawful hiring practices at the farm, federal authorities announced today.

The Michigan State Police and the Huron County Sherriff’s Office have each received nearly $287,000 – money that stemmed from a criminal investigation of Aquila Farms, a Bad Axe dairy farm that was staffed almost exclusively with illegal immigrants, officials said. The dairy operation made headlines in 2007, when federal agents with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations raided the farm and arrested dozens of illegal immigrants.

The raid triggered charges against the farm’s owners, who were successfully prosecuted and ordered in 2011 to pay $234,000 in fines and forfeit more than $2.7 million. They did not get prison sentences but were sentenced to probation. The company also pleaded guilty to harboring illegal immigrants.

Michigan State Police and Huron County Sheriff’s Office both worked on the investigation, which made them eligible to receive the funds obtained from the probe under the federal government’s asset-forfeiture program, which applies to assets obtained from criminal activity.

The state police and Huron County agencies received ceremonial checks in the amounts of $250,652 and $35,807.

"The Huron County Sheriff's Office is a small rural department with limited resources, some of which were used to assist with the HSI investigation into Aquila Farms," said Huron County Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson. "The asset forfeiture funds being awarded will help us to recover some of our investment by allowing us to update equipment, training facilities, and community safety programs that may have not been possible due to budgetary constraints."

Under federal law, the only individuals who may legally work in the U.S. are either U.S.citizens, or foreign citizens who have the necessary authorization

According to ICE, undocumented workers create vulnerabilities in the marketplace by presenting false documents to gain employment, completing applications for fraudulent benefits and stealing identities of legal U.S. workers. To combat this, ICE has created the IMAGE program, which provides employers with education and training on proper hiring procedures, including use of employment screening tools. One such tool is E-Verify, an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the U.S.

E-Verify is free, and can be be used by anyone in the U.S. over the age of 16 to confirm his or her employment eligibility.

Tresa Baldas: or 313-223-4296

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