Blog Archive

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Workers’ rights group decries arrests of immigrants at Stewart

December 24, 2009
Mid-Hudson News Network

NEWBURGH – THE WORKERS’ Rights Law Center of New York, based in Kingston, and the Hudson Valley Community Coalition in White Plains have “strongly condemned” last week’s arrests of a dozen illegal immigrants who worked for Empire Warehouse Solutions at Stewart International Airport.

The workers were arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on charges of using fake identification, including Social Security cards.

“These immigrants, like so many across the state, were simply trying to put in a hard day’s work and feed their families,” said Milan Bhatt, executive director of the Workers’ Rights Law Center.

Bhatt also took issue with comments by law-enforcement officials that the 12 workers have posed security risks because they had clearance to enter operations areas as Stewart. “They were there to do whatever they could to support their employer — to work hard to take care of their families like the rest of us,” he said.

The 12 suspects, all from Latin American countries, are not suspected of being part of any broader criminal activity, authorities said last week.

Also, state police Maj. Edward Raso said the arrested workers did not have access to the New York Air National Guard base across the airport grounds from the warehouse. The Air Guard’s 105th Airlift Wing flies C-5A Galaxy cargo planes from the base.

The suspects were arraigned on charges of falsifying business records and were sent to the Orange County Jail. Most were being held for deportation to their home countries.

Authorities said the investigation was initiated by an airport employee who questioned suspicious documents that were presented to him.

Michael Gourlay, president of Empire Warehouse Solutions, which is based in Schenectady, said all 12 suspects underwent Transportation Security Administration background checks before being hired, but a TSA spokeswoman said only nine of the 12 had security badges issued by the airport as a “trusted agent” of the federal agency. Of the other three, two had badge applications pending and one had his application rejected, the spokeswoman said.