Ten undocumented immigrants who had been arrested during several workplace raids in the Triangle appeared in federal court in New Bern yesterday.
Employees of Durham-based J&A Framers—Rafael Garcia-Tiscareno, Jose Guadalupe Rodriguez, Victorino Gutierrez-Licona, Lucio Huerta-Ponce, Luis Humberto Huerta-Ponce, Luis Raul Huerta-Ponce, Juan Manuel Martinze Rodriguez, Jorge Alberto Ruiz-Ponce, Flavio Martinez-Andres and Olegario Ortega-Solis were arrested in November by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers in Cary, Apex and Chapel Hill.
The defendants pleaded guilty of entering the United States illegally; two of the defendants pleaded guilty to reentering the United States after previous deportations.
U.S. Magistrate Judge David W. Daniel presided over the hearing because Chief District Judge Louise W. Flanagan was absent. However, Daniel doesn't have the authority to make the final sentence ruling, so the 10 employees remain jailed. They could serve an additional 90 days before a sentence is handed down.
Mason asked the court to expedite the sentencing of her clients. “If that request is denied, the sentencing will likely be set for the May term of court,” said Mason. “At that time, these men will be at or near the end of the advisory guideline range for their convictions.”
According to the U.S. Attorney's office, the workers are facing a maximum sentence of two years' imprisonment.
“This case is an illustration of the widespread desire to punish individuals who come to the United States illegally to work and provide for their families,” said Amanda Mason, the attorney representing the 10 immigrants. “Each of these men, most of whom have little criminal history beyond minor traffic violations, have demonstrated much strength during this difficult process,” she said adding, “the consequences for immigration violations are severe.”
A total of 18 workers were picked up on Nov. 15, as part of an ongoing investigation into Jose Alfredo Lopez Ponce and Juan Antonio Lopez Ponce, who operated J&A Framers & Carpentry. They were indicted Dec. 15 on charges including smuggling, harboring and recruiting immigrants to work at their Durham-based business. That case has not gone to trial.
Last month, eight employees pleased guilty to misdemeanor immigration-related charges of illegally entering the U.S.: Jorge Juerta Pone, Yair Cruz Garcia, Aldo Temix, German Rodriguez Martinez, Gabriel Miramontes Rosales, Jorge Escamilla Hernandez, Humberto Farfan Ramon, and Edgar Martinez Rodriguez
These eight men served 30 days in jail and were released on immigration bonds. They are awaiting hearings in immigration court.