By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents made multiple stops in Dearborn July 15 asking for employment records or information.
Hamido restaurant, 13251 W. Warren Ave., was one of those stops when ICE requested Manager Kassem Rizk to sign paperwork, he told the Detroit News. The agents also asked for restaurant employment records from the last three.
Risk said he refused to sign papers releasing information to ICE.
Rizk explained that one of the two agents said, “It was essential he sign the papers so they could conduct their government business,” the Detroit News reported.
Also, Rizk described that the form had generic wording, but no court order by a judge was presented at the time of the ICE visit. When Rizk sent the agents away, one replied that they would be back in a few days to pick up the I-9 employment eligibility verification forms.
Rizk told Michigan Radio that the restaurant does not employ anyone illegally.
In a statement, ICE Spokesman Khaalid Walls said agents served an I-9 audit notice at a Dearborn business on July 15, but no arrests were made.
“A notice of inspection informs business owners that ICE is going to audit their hiring records to determine whether they are complying with existing law,” he said.
He added that special agents from Homeland Security Investigations, an investigative arm of U.S. Department of Homeland Security, routinely conduct worksite investigations in order to uphold federal law.
“HSI’s worksite enforcement strategy continues to address both employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers and the workers themselves,” Walls said. “These routine efforts are ongoing and not related to other operational activity.
“HSI’s worksite enforcement strategy focuses on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly break the law, and the use of I-9 audits and civil fines to encourage compliance with the law. HSI’s worksite enforcement investigators help combat worker exploitation, illegal wages, child labor and other illegal practices.
“HSI’s worksite enforcement investigations often involve additional criminal activity, such as alien smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, document fraud, worker exploitation and/or substandard wage and working conditions,” Walls said.
American Human Rights Council Executive Director Imad Hamad said that while he was a guest on the WNZK-AM 690 radio station July 17, an unidentified man called and said a visit by ICE was made to his business.
The man did not identify the business in Dearborn, but said ICE agents requested employee information on July 15 and he provided what was asked.
Hamad said no formal reports on ICE visits were made to the AHRC, but that the organization reminded people of their basic rights and are monitoring activity by ICE closely.
“We are deeply troubled by raids and rumors of raids,” Hamad said in a statement July 13. “Democratic societies cannot operate normally under constant fear and anxiety of massive and disruptive law enforcement activity not connected to safety or the well-being of communities. It’s time to stop using immigration as a political football by finding a real solution consistent with democratic values and human rights.”
American Arab Civil Rights League Director Rula Aoun said the ICE visits didn’t surprise her, but that she didn’t hear of any ICE activity that what was already being reported.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan released a statement regarding the ICE agents visiting the metropolitan Detroit area.
“This is the intrusive ICE activity that happens every day,” ACLU of Michigan Immigrant Rights Staff Attorney Abril Valdes said. “Our communities shouldn’t have to live in fear that parents won’t come home from work, or kids won’t return from school, or a knock at the door could rip a family apart.”
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])