A day after federal agents detained 284 undocumented workers at a North Texas tech company, the families of those workers began searching for answers about what to do next.
"I had too many years here, I had my life," said Erica Salvador.
Salvador said she was among the workers taken into custody at CVE Technology Group in Allen on Wednesday. She was released late Wednesday night, she was told, because she doesn't have a criminal record and is the only caretaker for her 11-year-old daughter.
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"Right now, I'm the only support for my family," Salvador explained.
She carried a bundle of paperwork into the VividLife Church in Plano where volunteers set up a space to review workers' cases and offer advice.
Gloria Granados, executive director of the nonprofit Light of Hope, said most of the families who came in for help have been in the country for years.
Salvador says she came to the U.S. 27 years ago and had three daughters. Her fear is she'll be deported and separated from her youngest.
"My little one is 11 and it's not fair we change her life because this is her country," she said.
Three years ago, Salvador said she was hired to repair broken cell phones for $8 an hour at CVE.
ICE said it investigated complaints CVE knowingly hired undocumented workers with false ID's. Homeland Security said it reviewed the company's I-9 forms and found irregularities.
According to ICE: the arrested workers were citizens from 15 countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Kenya, Liberia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Peru, South Africa, South Korea and Venezuela.
HSI Dallas said there were 125 additional CVE employees who were determined to be U.S. citizens, U.S. permanent residents, or with legal status to work in the United States.
Of the 284 illegal workers arrested, 110 were ordered detained; 174 were issued a notice to appear before a federal immigration judge and released on their own recognizance for humanitarian reasons pending an immigration court hearing.
Of those who were ordered detained, nine had illegally re-entered the United States after having been previously deported; eight had already received final orders of removal – according to ICE.
It is not clear if any enforcement action will be taken against the company or management. Wednesday, ICE said the raid was part of a larger investigation.
"Businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens create an unfair advantage over their competing businesses," said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, HSI Dallas. "In addition, they take jobs away from U.S. citizens and legal residents, and they create an atmosphere poised for exploiting their illegal workforce."
The raid in Allen demonstrates a shift in immigration enforcement policy in the U.S. Two years ago, immigration lawyers say workplace raids were less common under the Obama administration's Priority Enforcement Program – which focused on undocumented immigrants with criminal records, threats to national security and recent arrivals.
"At this point, those three priorities are now 11 million priorities," said Dallas Immigration Attorney Paul Zoltan. "Every single undocumented immigrant is subject to removal with very little in the way of discretion, very little in the way of clemency."
He said the shift from priority enforcement means undocumented workers who have broken no other laws are viewed the same as those who accused of violent crimes.
"The arrests are no longer distinguished between those who have violated laws since their arrival and those who have not," explained Zoltan.
He said he's concerned about the possible ripple effects of a raid on the undocumented community.
"This is not going to create a fear that causes thousands of immigrants to self-deport. The fear that this generates will cause immigrants to hesitate before dialing 911, will cause immigrants to feel that they are in danger at all times, will make them more vulnerable to unscrupulous employers and criminals who would prey upon them," said Zoltan. "It will ultimately make us more unsafe."
In a statement, HSI said it is upholding the laws that protect jobs for lawful U.S. residents and citizens.
ICE said the workers arrested April 3 would be interviewed by ICE staff to document any medical or other humanitarian situations. Based on those interviews, ICE said it would determine who would remain in custody.
In all cases, the undocumented workers will be fingerprinted and processed for removal from the United States.
A 24-hour toll-free detainee locator hotline is available for family members at 1-888-351-4024.
Catholic Charities of Dallas also has volunteers at the United Methodist Church on South Greenville Avenue in Allen to assist families impacted by the raid.
RAICES is also taking applications for bond payments.