Blog Archive

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

ICE: 38 people arrested at construction site

By David A. Johnson, Lyxan Toledanes and Sarah Mueller contributed to this report
May 17, 2011

An upscale apartment complex still under construction in northeast Odessa was the site of an immigration raid Tuesday morning that led to the arrest of 38 people.

The Tuscany at Faudree apartments, 4001 Faudree Road, was surrounded by Odessa police and Midland County sheriff's deputies, as well as at least one K-9 unit from the Andrews County sheriff's office.

The land lies just at the edge of Ector County, but still within Odessa city limits.

A helicopter circled the air above the apartment and nearby fields for more than half an hour, apparently looking for anyone who might have escaped the perimeter of what an Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman from El Paso confirmed was a search warrant executed by their agents. Attempts to get a copy of the probable cause affidavit for the search warrant were unsuccessful Tuesday.

The spokeswoman said 37 men and 1 woman were arrested in the raid on immigration violations, which she said was an administrative charge, so their names wouldn’t be released, and they wouldn’t go through federal courts before being deported.

The spokeswoman said it was an ongoing investigation, therefore nothing more could be released.

A September 2008 ICE raid resulted in 15 men being taken into custody at the Dorado Ranch apartments located at 3601 Faudree Road, less than a mile south of Tuscany. Some workers taken into custody, while others were deported to their home countries. Part of Dorado Ranch had opened a month earlier, while part remained under construction at the time of the raid.

Marc McDougal, president of the McDougal Land Team based in Lubbock, said he has never had problems with illegal immigrants on past constructions sites.

Around 200 to 300 people work at the construction site every day and McDougal said most of those workers are employed by around 30 subcontractors. As of Tuesday afternoon, McDougal said none of the subcontractors have been fined.

“That’s one of the things we’ll be looking into as far as who was picked up and for what,” McDougal said. “We’ll address that with our subs (subcontractors) and we’ll replace those subs (who are fined).”

McDougal said there are no delays on construction on the 325-unit complex, which had an original building permit in July 2010 for $26.4 million in construction. gave the prices as ranging from $1,155 per month for 762-square-foot one bedroom/one bathrooms units to $1,925 for 1,330 square-foot three bedroom/two bathroom units.

Mike Tennison, who works for an electric contractor out of Lubbock, said work on the site starts at 7 a.m. each day. The 25-year-old said the first thing he saw recognizing it was a raid was the helicopter. Then he saw the officers on foot.

"They just came to us and told us to put our hands behind our head," Tennison said, although he said officers weren't threatening about it. Then Tennison said they patted him down and moved him to holding where everyone was having their immigration and warrant status checked. A little after 9 a.m., he was able to drive out in his work van.

At about 9:20 a.m., 60-year-old Baltazar Garcia was cleared to walk out, along with several other people, directed to wait at the Tractor Supply Store, 7800 E. Highway 191. The 60-year-old plaster worker said about six of the 30 people in his crew were taken, although he had guessed about 10 of the cleaning women had also been taken.

Garcia said he'd been at other immigration raids in the past, but they were different.

"They just took two of three guys at a time," Garcia said.

Garcia said that it used to be, everybody just went inside during raids.

"Now, they check every room," Garcia said.

Later, Garcia wondered if, when everyone was paid at the end of the week, Tuesday’s wages would be included.