More than 20 employees of a construction company have been detained after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials raided three workplaces in Cary, Apex and Chapel Hill.
The raids at J & A Lopez Framing occurred Nov. 15. The employees were taken initially to an ICE facility in Cary before being sent to the Wake County Jail.
Jail officials refused to release any information on the workers.
The following day, ICE officials also visited the homes of the employees' family members in Durham, where four to six people were reportedly arrested.
"We did make some arrests as part of an ongoing criminal investigation," said Barbara Gonzalez, southern regional communications director for ICE, "but I am not in a position to divulge those details."
Laura Lopez, who answered the phone at J & A Lopez Framing, said her father, business owner Juan Antonio Lopez, has not been jailed. "My dad is a good person and good to his workers," she said. "My dad didn't do anything bad. This is very frightening."
Robin Zier, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Raleigh, said most of the charges involved "eluding examination and inspection"—which means being in the U.S. illegally. However, Zier said, she couldn't disclose the number of arrests. The Mexican Consulate is also involved in the investigation.
The consulate did not return calls from the Indy seeking comment. Unlike other ICE raids in the Triangle—in which immigrants are immediately deported or sent to immigration court—these employees were arrested on federal criminal charges. This practice is more common in the Southwest U.S., says an advocate with the N.C. Justice Center.
Federal Prosecutor Dennis Duffy says he cannot comment on cases that are part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Yholima Vargas, director of the Service Program at El Centro Hispano, is working with the families of those who were arrested, many of whom have gone into hiding. Vargas declined to comment further. "When the investigation is complete and we have the information we need, we will issue a press release," she said.