Back in February, a co-owner at Bellingham's Yamato Engine Specialists told Real Change that she would never have deliberately put her family's business through an immigration raid like the one that took place Feb. 28, when agents hauled away 28 of Yamato's workers in leg chains.
Her own family came from Uganda, hiring manager Shirin Dhanani Makalai said, and she checked the name and Social Security number of every new hire in a federal database.
Last week, however, Makalai and her brother, Shafique Dhanani, pleaded guilty to felony charges, admitting that they'd known some of the workers used false names and Social Security numbers, The Seattle Times reported.
The raid was the first under President Obama and it created an uproar among immigrant-rights activists who say he promised to end Homeland Security's practices under George Bush. After the incident, Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano ordered an investigation and has since issued directives that the agency is to focus on the hiring practices of employers like Yamato, not individual immigrants.
Makalai and Dhanani may only get probation, the Times reported. But immigrant-rights activists say the case does nothing in the long run to fix the immigration system or change the plight of immigrants dragged off to facilities like Tacoma's Northwest Detention Center, where they are frequently mistreated, activists say.
While all 28 Yamato workers were later released, Homeland Security revealed Aug. 17 that 11 more deaths have occurred at detention centers nationwide than the agency previously acknowledged, bringing the total to 104 since 2003. The data was released in the wake of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which cites deficient medical care as the leading cause of death in immigration detention.