CLARION — Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided DeCoster Farms egg production operations in Wright County last week, detaining at least 36 people.

Bob Teig, assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, confirmed that ICE agents conducted an enforcement operation on June 14 and that “people were detained.”

At this point, there have been no charges filed, so Teig declined to comment further.

Immigration agents conducted enforcement at “several” DeCoster Farms egg production plants and detained at least 36 undocumented workers,” Wright County Sheriff Paul Schultz said. “Our officers were involved in perimeter security.”

One of the detained women was pregnant and she was released later, he said.

This is the third immigration raid at DeCoster Farms in Wright County since 2001 that has resulted in detention and possible deportation of undocumented workers, according to Schultz.

“Our community has good Hispanic people. They work hard, trying to improve their lives. No one can blame them for that,” he said. “But someone is helping them get here illegally. They are getting false documentation from somewhere — bogus Social Security cards, bogus work visas and other bogus identification. The people who bring them here and furnish false IDs are just as guilty.”

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Employers needs to “get educated” on how to recognize false documentation, Schultz said.

John McDonald, coordinator of foreign labor certification at Iowa Workforce Development, agreed.

This raid resulted in two findings, he said — that a “good portion” of the workers had H2B work visas, commonly used for seasonal workers, such as landscape laborers, cleaners, hotel and restaurant employees, although they can be used for any occupation where the need for the worker is less than one year.

“And others were found to be undocumented, have been detained and could be deported,” McDonald said. “The magnet, the base of the problem, is the employers that hire undocumented workers.”

Attempts to reach Austin J. DeCoster, who founded DeCoster farms, and his son, Peter, active in their management, were unsuccessful.

Reach Jan Horgen at 421-0534 or jan.horgen@globegazette.com.

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