Federal immigration agents detained more than 100 workers at a construction site for a new Wal-Mart distribution center, authorities said.
The workers, who Wal-Mart said were employed by a subcontractor and not by the retailing giant, were detained Thursday on suspected immigration violations, said Department of Homeland Security spokesman Marc Raimondi. They were being taken to Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers for processing, he said.
More than 50 federal immigration agents, joined by the U.S. Labor Department, Social Security Administration and state police, raided the construction site near Pottsville, about 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia.
Wal-Mart spokesman Marty Heires said the company would cooperate fully with federal authorities.
“We have written contracts with these subcontractors requiring that they follow all applicable local, state and federal employment laws,” he said in a statement.
At least 120 illegal immigrants, most of them from Mexico, were detained, Schuylkill County Sheriff Frank McAndrew said. He said he began investigating the site and contacted federal officials after getting complaints from local tradespeople.
“You’ve got a situation here where illegal immigrants are coming into Schuylkill County and taking (local union workers’) jobs for eight bucks an hour. They are working for poverty wages, and creating unemployment because our skilled tradesmen are out of work,” McAndrew said.
In 2003, a raid of 60 Wal-Mart stores in 21 states led to the arrests of 245 illegal workers. An affidavit claimed a pair of senior Wal-Mart executives knew cleaning contractors were hiring illegal immigrants. The retailer agreed to pay $11 million in March to settle the case but denied senior executives knew of the hirings.