Using false documents to gain employment leads to 11 arrests on Colorado Dairy Farm
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced the arrest of 11 men in Colorado last week, following a routine inspection of eligibility forms by the Department of Homeland Security. A Morgan Countygrand jury indicted 20 men with possessing or using falsified “green cards” and social security cards to obtain employment. The other nine men remain at large.
The Wildcat Dairy in Fort Morgan, about 80 miles from Denver, has been the target of an investigation by local, state and federal agencies, including ICE, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Fort Morgan Police Department, and the Colorado 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office. ICE investigators determined that 89 percent of the company’s employees were not legally authorized to work in the U.S. As a result, 53 of the farm’s 60 workers have either been arrested or have fled to avoid arrest.
David Marwell, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Denver, stressed, “It’s important that we increase security and oversight of government identity documents as technology makes it easier to create high-quality fraudulent documents.” He went on to state that all document fraud poses a threat to national security and public safety because individuals will find ways to exploit vulnerabilities in the system that may enable terrorists and criminals to get in—and remain in—the U.S.
Authorities in Morgan County served arrest warrants at the dairy and at employees’ homes. This has the community and immigration advocates questioning the Office of Homeland Security and the Obama administration’s statement that they would not pursue everyday workers or raid homes unless serious crimes unrelated to immigration have been committed.
The 11 men from Mexico and Central America face felony charges that include possession of a forged alien registration card (green card), possession of a forged social security card, criminal impersonation, and criminal impersonation to gain a benefit. Those arrested are being held in the Morgan County Jail pending bond or trial. If convicted, the men face penalties of as much as three years in prison, one year of mandatory parole, and fines of up to $100,000.
Following the arrests, community meetings were conducted in Fort Morgan by representatives of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC). The meetings were held to help the wives and children of the men understand what to expect from the court system and where to find resources to support them now that their husbands’ paychecks will stop.
The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office released a statement that Wildcat Dairy management cooperated with the arrest operations and will not face any charges. The dairy’s owner, Ed Wilgenburg, said he was not sure how he would care for his 11,500 cows without these workers.