28 Immigrants Arrested In Bellingham Shop Raid

SEATTLE — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials say they have arrested 28 illegal immigrants working at a Bellingham engine manufacturing plant.

In a statement, authorities say that 25 men and three women were arrested Tuesday at Yamato Engine Specialists. Most of the people arrested are in custody at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, where they will await deportation proceedings. Three of the 28 were not taken to the detention center on humanitarian grounds.

Of the 28, agents found 25 Mexican nationals and one person each from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Agents say many of the people obtained the jobs using fake Social Security numbers and other counterfeit documents.

Shirin Dhanani Makalai, whose family owns the business, says the raid came after months of cooperating with ICE on an audit, which included providing employee rosters to federal authorities.

Makalai says the company did not knowingly hire illegal immigrants, and added employers have no clear way of checking an employee’s legal status.

Makalai says that in 2006, ICE arrested about 30 employees after an audit.