Christensen Farms in Minnesota among businesses targeted in immigration raids

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Special agents from U.S. ICE's HSI executed a series of criminal arrest warrants in Bartlett, Nebraska for various individuals connected to an alleged conspiracy related to the exploitation of illegal alien workers. Photo Keith Gardner

Federal agents conducted an operation targeting businesses that allegedly employed and possibly exploited undocumented workers in Nebraska and Minnesota, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

According to a press release, Wednesday, special agents with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations executed search warrants for 17 people allegedly connected to a criminal conspiracy to exploit undocumented workers for profit, fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in Nebraska and Minnesota. Agents also executed search warrants for worksite hiring violations at agricultural businesses, including Christensen Farms in Appleton and Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. Authorities served more than 10 locations of various agricultural businesses in Nebraska.

While executing the warrants Wednesday, agents arrested 133 undocumented workers for immigration violations. Some of these workers may also have been exploited as part of the alleged conspiracy. Of those arrested, some will receive notices to appear in front of an immigration judge and be released from custody, while others will remain in ICE custody. The detained workers will be held in facilities in Nebraska and Minnesota.

Investigators believe 17 people across multiple states “colluded to create an illegal alien workforce”. Authorities also believe the alleged conspirators exploited the illegal workers “through force, coercion, or threat of arrest and/or deportation.” The workers allegedly had to cash their paychecks at an illegal remittance business for a fee. Taxes were also deducted from their pay, even though that amount was never paid to the government.

In Minnesota, eight total arrests were made, five of which are currently in ICE custody and three were served with notices to appear before a federal immigration judge and released on orders of supervision. None of the Minnesota arrests were criminal. All criminal arrests were made in Nebraska. 

“The job magnet in the United States is primarily what draws illegal aliens across our borders,” said Special Agent in Charge Tracy J. Cormier, HSI St. Paul, which oversees Nebraska and Minnesota. “This HSI-led criminal investigation has shown that these targeted businesses were knowingly hiring illegal workers to unlawfully line their own pockets by cheating the workers, cheating the taxpayers, and cheating their business competitors.”

Of the 17 people listed in the indictment, only three are not yet in custody. The following were listed in the indictment: Juan Pablo Sanchez Delgado, Antonio De Jesus Castro, Magdalena Castro Benitez, Alma Hernandez Moreno, Anayancy Castro Hernandez, Fabian Castro, Suni Sarahi Sanchez Delgado, Osvaldo Sanchez Delgado, John Christopher Good, Aracely Heredia Martinez, Eric Beringer, Christopher Thurlow, Mayra P. Jimenez Castellon, Asiyadeth Jimenez Castellon, John Glidden, Jaime Garcia Cota, and Lillian Ajin.

Christensen Farms, which has its headquarters in Sleepy Eye, released the following statement to Fox 9:

“Today (Wednesday, August 8), three Christensen Farms’ locations were visited by the United States Department of Homeland Security division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”). Locations included the Christensen Farms’ Sleepy Eye Campus (office, feed mill, truck wash), Appleton, Minn. Truck Wash, and one Nebraska farm. The purpose of this visit was to verify lawful employment within the United States. We were surprised and disappointed to learn that one of our third party vendors is not in compliance with immigration policies. At Christensen Farms, we have an expectation that all of partners and third party vendors uphold the same high standards as our company. At Christensen Farms, we value our diverse work force and those that work hard every day to put food on the table here in the U.S., and across the globe.”