PLEASE SEE UPDATES BELOW
Saturday morning, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided 16 locations throughout the Valley associated with Danny's Family Car Wash and the company's staffing provider HR Betty.
According a statement issued by ICE, members of the agency's Homeland Security Investigations unit began serving warrants on both companies beginning at 11 a.m., as part of "an ongoing criminal investigation involving alleged criminal immigration fraud, identity theft and financial violations."
ICE spokeswoman Amber Cargile said the warrants resulted from a grand jury indictment which will be unsealed Monday morning in federal court.
She emphasized that the investigation targeted the "management leadership" of the businesses, not the workers, making it unlike a worksite raid done by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
"Since 2009, ICE has focused on employers," Cargile explained. "We're committed to criminally investigating and prosecuting businesses and organizations that knowingly hire illegal workers."
Cargile said workers suspected of being undocumented will be taken into custody and processed administratively, not charged criminally.
Undocumented workers without outstanding warrants and criminal records likely will be released by ICE "within a matter of hours," she said.
She did not have the number of arrestees, but promised those numbers by tomorrow.
Pro-immigrant human rights activist Sal Reza of Tonatierra's Barrio Defense Committees was critical of the raid, and disagreed that there was any distinction between this sort of enforcement action and the kind Arpaio does.
"The Obama administration going after employers is just another facet of the same thing that is happening with Arpaio," he told me. "The ones that are ultimately affected are the workers, because they're left without a job.
"Maybe they're not going to go to jail immediately, maybe they'll be released and their case closed administratively, or who knows, put through deportations proceedings. [The Obama administration] is still not fixing the problem, still not legalizing work, and still going after workers like they were prostitutes. To me, it's the same thing."
And yet, ICE raids and MCSO raids differ in this respect: Arpaio's Criminal Employment Squad traditionally does not target employers, preferring to do round-ups of undocumented workers, whom Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery then prosecutes criminally, holding them nonbondable for months on end.
The MCSO and Danny's Family Car Wash have significant ties. Danny's is a major sponsor of the MCSO Memorial Fund for fallen officers, and has done several charity carwashes for the organization over the years.
The Memorial Fund's website has a gallery of photos featuring Danny's workers, MCSO vehicles, and sheriff's office deputies participating in fundraisers. The site offers a "thank you" to a list of sponsors, with a logo for Danny's prominently displayed.
The company's website indicates that Danny's also has done fundraisers for fallen first responders of other agencies, including the Phoenix Police Department and the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
In 2010, the carwash's parent organization Danny's Family Companies reportedly filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Danny's CEO Danny Hendon followed suit in 2011, filing for personal bankruptcy, in what he said at the time was an attempt to keep the business afloat.
UPDATE 4:58 PM SUNDAY AUGUST 18:
Just received this statement from ICE spokeswoman Amber Cargile:
"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) interviewed 223 individuals who were encountered during the execution of federal search and arrest warrants Saturday. Of those 223 interviewed:
"14 individuals (four U.S. citizens and 10 Mexican nationals) were placed under federal criminal arrest.
"30 individuals were taken into custody by ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) for administrative immigration enforcement processing, based on their prior criminal and/or immigration histories.
"179 individuals qualified for prosecutorial discretion under the agency's enforcement guidelines. Those individuals were released from custody within hours of being interviewed."
More when I get it.
UPDATE 5:58PM SUNDAY AUGUST 18:
Phoenix resident Halina Reed posted the above photo to Facebook today, explaining that she took the photo 6 to 12 months ago at the Danny's located at 20th Street and Highland Ave.
I asked ICE spokeswoman Amber Cargile about the pic.
"The vehicle in the photo you provided is not an ICE vehicle," said Cargile. "It is used by DHS Federal Protective Service. Given the sensitivity of the criminal probe, information about the case was not shared widely outside of the ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) case agents involved."
Reed says she's seen such vehicles getting scrubbed at Danny's in the past. Since it's garnered more than a few comments on FB, I re-post it here with Reed's permission.