Immigration agents raid equipment supplier Terra Universal

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents brought work to a standstill at equipment supplier Terra Universal on June 29, 2010. The raid was part of an investigation into illegal immigration.

The agents stayed all day at the Fullerton, CA, facility, which employs about 230. Production resumed the following day. The company makes cleanroom and contamination control equipment.

Forty-three workers were arrested at the 35-year-old company. All but two were released and ordered to immigration court.

The agents, who reportedly prevented workers from leaving the plant, had search warrants for job applications, employment verification forms, immigration documents and Social Security correspondence. Wage and tax records as well as documentation of cash payments were also on the list, according to the LA Times.

Immigration officials say their focus is on companies that have some link to national security and on employers who are knowingly hiring illegal workers and committing such other crimes as extorting employees, failing to pay minimum wage or harboring illegal immigrants.

Terra Universal attorney David Ross, who describes the raid as "overkill,"  says he believes the action was politically motivated and that President Obama is trying to show he's tough on illegal immigration, the Times reports. Worksite enforcement has been a theme of Obama's immigration policy, according to the paper.

But the action bears some similarity with sister federal agency FDA, which has promised swifter and more definitive actions against manufacturers who repeatedly violate good manufacturing practices.

"Are we trying to engage in enforcement that counts?" asks immigration enforcement chief John Morton, in a rhetorical query that could be attributed to either ICE or the FDA. "Yes. When you're dealing with limited resources and more employers than those resources can cover in a given year, you have to have targeted efforts."

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