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Borough Council Members Question Recent Federal Government Raids

by on July 14, 2014 9:22 PM

Two borough council members raised concerns Monday night about the lack of information available regarding the federal operation involving several State College restaurants.

The Homeland Security Investigations unit with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency conducted an enforcement operation in State College June 12, which targeted a number of restaurants. Throughout the operation that lasted several hours, authorities led several males and females in handcuffs into the State College Police Department.

What happened to those individuals one month ago is still unclear. Authorities have said if any charges are filed, the information will be public record. However, without advance notice of the charges being filed, along with the identity of those charged, it would be challenging for the news media or members of the public to locate the information.

Council member Evan Myers raised concerns about the lack of information at the start of council's public meeting Monday night.

"As citizen of this country I think we have an obligation to at least know what happened to those folks," Myers says.

Council member Peter Morris agreed with Myers saying he has many questions about what happened June 12.

"There's a lot of things about that that I would like to know," Morris says. "There's said to be several million illegal immigrants in America. Why did they come to State College to look for them? ... I would also really like to know what happened to those people and I'm pessimistic that we ever will."

Borough Manager Tom Fountaine noted the federal government, not the State College Police Department, led the operation. State College police did assist with the effort, however, ICE instructed local officials to refer all inquiries to ICE.

The day of the operation, Nicole Navas, spokesperson for ICE, issued brief comments.

"This is still an ongoing HSI investigation," she said. "There is nothing of the public record as criminal charges have not been filed. In order not to compromise this ongoing criminal investigation, no additional details are available at his time."

A few days later, Navas said in an e-mail that agents detained 10 people from China, Guatemala, Thailand, Mexico and Indonesia.

"They are currently in ICE custody pending removal or immigration removal proceedings. The HSI criminal investigation continues," she said.

When asked for an update Monday, ICE Spokesman Harold Ort said in an e-mail there was no update and the investigation is ongoing.

Restaurants were the target, including the China Dragon in the 100 block of South Allen Street; Hundred Degrees Hot Pot, My Thai and Fuji & Jade Garden in the Westerly Parkway Plaza; Penang on North Atherton Street and the College Buffet at the North Atherton Place shopping center.

All restaurants reopened within 24 hours. Staff and owners at several of the establishments told StateCollege.com they were baffled by the raids.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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