Deputies raided a Phoenix car wash on June 13 that is suspected of employing illegal immigrants, detaining at least 15 workers, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said.
At least 25 employees might have used forged identification documents to get jobs at the Lindstrom Family Auto Wash on East Indian School Road, Arpaio said. The business was raided at about 9 a.m. and some of the workers tried to escape by running or jumping onto the roof, but all were caught.
Deputies served search warrants at the business and at employees’ homes. They will screen the workers to see if they’re in the country legally or used forged papers.
The investigation began almost a year ago after a tip from a former employee, Arpaio said. The business owners aren’t being detained but are being investigated for possible violations of the state’s employer sanctions law.
That law prohibits employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and requires businesses to verify the work eligibility of new workers through a federal database. Violators face the suspension or revocation of their business licenses. The law doesn’t carry criminal penalties.
Arpaio’s office has conducted numerous workplace raids in the past two years, including several in the city of Phoenix that have drawn criticism from Mayor Phil Gordon. Arpaio said 248 people have been arrested during the employer sanction investigations, 152 for identity theft or having forged papers.
The business raids and other “crime suppression sweeps” of neighborhoods across the county that net a large number of illegal immigrant arrests have drawn criticism from immigrants rights groups. Arpaio’s office is also under investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department over allegations of discrimination and unconstitutional searches and seizures.
Arpaio has said federal investigators are focusing on alleged patterns of discriminatory police practices and of discrimination based on national origin. He denies the allegations.
Arpaio’s department is the largest participant in a federal program that allows local police departments to enforce federal immigration laws.
The sheriff said Saturday that he’ll keep doing the workplace raids and crime sweep operations.
“I’m going to continue these types of investigations regardless of any criticism I get from across the nation or in Phoenix,” Arpaio said.