Federal agents arrested 81 suspected illegal immigrants at a manufacturing plant that has received millions of dollars in public assistance since it opened eight years ago. The company put the blame on a temporary agency.
All 81 workers arrested in the raid Tuesday at Iridium Industries Inc.'s Artube division have been placed in removal proceedings for eventual deportation, said Ernestine Fobbs, a spokeswoman with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Iridium's plant manager, Wayne Migliaccio, said Wednesday that the raid was focused on a temp agency that supplied workers to the plant, not on Iridium itself.
"(ICE) Special Agent Jason Rundell's first words to me were, 'You are not the target here. You are the victim,'" Migliaccio said in a statement e-mailed to the media. "Rundell said that the raid was aimed at one particular temporary employment agency which was operating in the area."
The immigrants, who are from Mexico, Indonesia, Malaysia and Ecuador, were taken to ICE detention centers for processing, Fobbs said Wednesday.
Fobbs declined to say what led agents to raid the plant in East Stroudsburg, on the New Jersey border about 70 miles north of Philadelphia.
Company has received public assistance
The company, which makes plastic squeeze tubes for lotions and other consumer products, has not been charged with wrongdoing.
Neither Migliaccio nor government officials identified the temp agency.
Migliaccio said Iridium uses various temp agencies and that it is their responsibility to check workers' immigration status. He said the company had no reason to question the employees' status before the raid.
Iridium has benefited from several rounds of public assistance, mainly in the form of low-interest loans.
Iridium bought the former Web Dynamics building in 1999 with the help of a $3.6 million economic development package from the state. At the time, the company pledged to create more than 160 jobs in three years. An Iridium official said the company chose the Poconos because of its proximity to New York and Philadelphia.
A few years later, Iridium received a $660,000 low-interest loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority for plant expansion.
And just last month, the Monroe County commissioners approved a $3.7 million low-interest, tax-free loan for Iridium for the purchase of new equipment.
Chuck Leonard, executive director of the Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corp., said Iridium has met its job-creation obligations and has kept up with its loan payments.