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Illegal Immigrants' Arrests Raise Questions About Employers, State Laws

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JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. — As federal immigration agents continue to crack down on illegal immigrants working in sensitive security areas, some people wonder why general businesses are not targets as well.

On Wednesday, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detained 21 people believed to be illegal immigrants working for construction companies at Camp Lejeune. It marked the fourth time in as many months that workers at military installations in North Carolina had been arrested.

Though general businesses such as Wal-Mart have had to pay up to $11 million for suspected illegal immigrants working in stores across the country, general businesses typically are not the targets of ICE investigations.

This allows thousands of employers who hire illegal immigrants to fly under the radar because the government does not make general employment a priority, said state Sen. Hugh Webster.

Webster, a Republican from Alamance County, said he thinks the system is a dangerous drain that requires taxpayers to support undocumented and uninsured workers.

"These people should not be brought into the workforce as some sort of gray market slave labor," he said.

Attorney Jorgelina Araneda defends workers and employers caught up in immigration troubles.

"They take the work that a lot of Americans do not want," Araneda said. "I think these workers contribute greatly to our economy."

The rate of growth in the Triangle and the work that is available means the debate will not end anytime soon.

Solutions also can be hard to find.

In a way, the state's hands are tied.

There is no state law that prohibits employers from hiring illegal immigrants. That is the job of the federal government through ICE.

But, Areneda said, ICE does not have the force to locate illegal immigrants.

"That's why they do these random searches and leave employers in fear," she said.

Webster said he plans to re-introduce legislation that would require proof of citizenship to vote and to receive benefits.

Congress is also talking about immigration reform that will include a debate on a guest worker program.


Kelcey Carlson


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