Immigration, News, Undocumented Workers

Feds Say Farmer Knew He Hired Illegal Aliens

From WatertownDailyTimes.com, “Feds say farmer knew he hired illegal aliens” by Dave Shampine, 30 Mar 2011.

John Barney, 48, of 11303 County Route 75, was taken to Syracuse this morning for arraignment in U.S. District Court. TIMES PHOTO / NORM JOHNSTON

John Barney, 48, of 11303 County Route 75, was taken to Syracuse this morning for arraignment in U.S. District Court. TIMES PHOTO / NORM JOHNSTON

SMITHVILLE [NY] — An owner of Butterville Farms, where an alleged illegal migrant worker died March 20, was arrested Wednesday morning “for harboring illegals” by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, and was taken in handcuffs to Syracuse.

John Barney, 48, of 11303 County Route 75, was driven to Syracuse for arraignment, where he was released without bail by U.S. District Court Judge Andrew T. Baxter.

“They told me they were arresting him for harboring illegals,” his brother and business partner, Jesse Barney, told reporters

“We don’t know if they are illegals,” he continued. “We can’t challenge them” when migrant workers present a federal document — the I-9 form — to obtain temporary employment.

Jefferson County sheriff’s detectives and deputies assisted the federal agents.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a conviction for harboring illegal aliens carries a possible prison sentence of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $250,000.

Mr. Barney said the farm, where his father, Howard, currently in Florida, is senior owner, had never been investigated about hiring practices until Porfirio Lopez, 46, Guatemala, died in an apparent fall on the farm. The next day, ICE was investigating, and removed eight migrant workers. Only one of them has been identified — Jacinto Raymundo, 25.

Approximately 14 federal agents and sheriff’s deputies pulled up in seven cars to the farm at 7:20 a.m., and Mr. Barney was almost immediately placed in handcuffs. Sheriff John P. Burns said ICE requested extra police assistance because two ICE agents felt they were in a confrontational situation with the owners and migrant workers in their initial visit to the farm.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Duncan declined comment about the case, but released a criminal complaint that alleges Mr. Barney acknowledged to a sergeant of the sheriff’s department that he was aware his workers were illegal aliens.

Jesse Barney said an ICE agent told him that he would be called to come pick up his brother after arraignment. He was at a loss to explain why he was not also charged, since he is an equal partner with his brother in the farm business.

“John handles the cows, and I do crops,” he said.

They had retained an attorney prior to the arrest, but the brothers declined to identify the lawyer. Mr. Duncan said Mr. Barney was represented by an attorney at the arraignment, but he did not know who it was.

The last members of the police raid departed about 12 minutes after their arrival, taking with them the Immigration “I-9” forms which migrants present to an employer for temporary employment.

The two brothers chatted with reporters prior to the arrival of police, and said they had no warnings that something would be happening. ICE agents were supposed to have come Monday to collect the I-9 documents, but they never arrived, the brothers said.

Minutes after the discussion, they received a phone call, alerting them that a caravan of police cars was coming from the north.

Who called? “We have good neighbors,” Jesse said.

And he expressed his appreciation to those neighbors who helped out with their hired hands to do milking on the 1,200-head farm in the days after ICE removed the migrants.

Since then, the farm has been able to hire replacement workers, he said. Many of them had to be trained, he said.

The brothers said during the pre-arrest interview that they had in the past advertised to hire help, but the only applicants were migrants. Publicity about the worker’s death and the ICE investigation helped bring in job applicants, they said. As of Wednesday, they were back to their full complement of 17 workers, he said.

Meanwhile, he was left Wednesday handling all the administrative work and “going to pick up new parts” that he and his brother would have shared, he said.

The court documents indicate the migrants, speaking Spanish, admitted to the sheriff’s sergeant that they were in the country illegally. Five of the migrants told ICE that they worked 12-hour shifts at hourly wages ranging from $7.75 to $8.75, with no taxes withheld, and their lodging provided by the farm.

One migrant was quoted, “The American workers get paid a lot more than I do and they get a lot more days off than I do.”

While one had worked on the farm only two weeks, another has been a Butterville hand five years. Three others said they had worked there about a year.

Read at: WatertownDailyTimes.com, “Feds say farmer knew he hired illegal aliens” by Dave Shampine, 30 Mar 2011.

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