YAKIMA, Wash. — At least 21 people were arrested Wednesday in a series of immigration raids in Yakima following a federal investigation into alleged document fraud, including counterfeit work authorization cards.
About 70 federal agents and police officers raided homes and businesses across Yakima, including one that shut down South Third Avenue near Peach Street for two hours.
Late Wednesday, staff at the Yakima County jail reported 21 people — 12 men and nine women — had been brought in by federal agents for booking.
Andrew Munoz, a spokesman for Homeland Security Investigations in Seattle, a unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, said more than 40 separate search and arrest warrants were served as part of the raids, executed after a federal grand jury issued secret indictments.
He declined to be more specific about locations and arrests, but said the indictments stemmed from a lengthy investigation of document fraud, including counterfeit work authorization cards. Those arrested were slated to make their initial appearance before a federal magistrate today in U.S. District Court.
A young mother who lives near the scene of the Third Avenue raid said she and her husband had recently noticed a lot of coming and going from the house. Cars frequently park at the Central Assembly of God church across the street as people visited the home, said the woman, who did not want to give her name.
She said she and her husband saw several unmarked law enforcement vehicles at the house last Saturday, appearing as if they pulled over another vehicle.
Munoz, the spokesman for Homeland Security, stressed that none of those arrested Wednesday were targeted “solely for deportation” due to their individual immigration status.
“These (arrests) are the result of criminal indictments by a federal grand jury,” not immigration violations, he said.
His comments about the scope of the raids recalled a series of controversial raids in Ellensburg two years ago that resulted in the detention of 33 people, including women with small children, on a variety of criminal and immigration violation charges.
Those raids centered on two trailer parks and culminated an 18-month investigation by ICE and Homeland Security into the manufacture and purchase of counterfeit identity and employment documents.
Federal authorities never announced what set off the raids, which were criticized by some residents of Ellensburg as heavy-handed and seemingly random.
Two Yakima men were eventually convicted in federal court as the source of counterfeit documents in that case. One was sentenced to two years in prison, the other got six months. Both were deported to Mexico.
• Yakima Herald-Republic reporter Ross Courtney contributed to this report.