Families, friends fearful after raid

Published: Saturday, Feb. 9 2008 12:00 a.m. MST

Maria Ortiz, who has been trying to answer questions from families affected by the Lindon raid, cries as she talks of their plight.

Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News

Enlarge photo»

PROVO — Not only was Francisco Ortiz supposed to come home from work Thursday night, he was supposed to bring his paycheck as well.

But he never made it. He was arrested Thursday morning by federal immigration agents who conducted a raid at the Universal Industrial Sales Inc. plant in Lindon.

A total of 57 undocumented workers were arrested — the result of a lengthy investigation that led to federal charges being filed against the company and its human resource director.

Ortiz's wife, Wendy Castaneda, spent Friday morning in court, watching as her husband appeared via video screen from the jail to get bail set at $7,500 cash or bond for potential criminal charges.

But she doesn't have that kind of money.

Right now she doesn't even have money to feed her crying 3 1/2-year-old child.

"(These wives) went to bed without a source of income, without a husband," said Maria Ortiz, a relative, friend and translator who came to court with Castaneda and sister-in-law Irma Ortiz, who is now the sole supporter of two children, ages 4 and 6.

"They gotta find a baby-sitter, pay for their homes, feed and clothe their kids," said Maria Ortiz. "Why can't we come to the table? Both (sides) want the same thing." She began crying. "The strength of society is families," she said. "That is destroyed (when families) are living in two countries. Society goes down the toilet."

Thursday and Friday, Maria Ortiz's Provo home became the information hub, with visitors and callers desperate for any information about their husbands, brothers, sons and uncles.

"When they finally find somebody who's bilingual, they come and spill their guts," she said. Although she is Native American, Ortiz married a Hispanic and speaks fluent Spanish. Plus, her background as a notary public allows her to explain the legal process to the concerned families.

She helped Castaneda and Irma Ortiz understand what was going on Friday morning, as their husbands stood in front of 4th District Court Judge Fred Howard, answering questions about their home countries and how long they've been in Utah.

Most of the employees are from the same area of Villa Corona, Jalisco, Mexico, and are related by blood or marriage. A few of the others are from California, Honduras or Argentina.

Nearly all the men had been in Utah longer than two years, with some as many as 12 years.

They are being held in the Utah County Jail for investigation of possession of a forged writing device and some for identity theft. The few who have a criminal record, such as DUI, theft or drug possession, got bail of $10,000 cash or bond. The majority who answered they had never been convicted of a crime were given $7,500 cash or bond bail.

The one thing uniting most of those arrested were their families left behind.

A wife and a daughter. A wife and three children. A mother and a brother.

But it's more than just those immediate family members who are afraid.

Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, says undocumented immigrants across the state were afraid to go to work or out to shop Friday. He said the Latino mall in Salt Lake was nearly deserted.

"Everybody is not shopping, they're not coming out, they don't want to go to work," Yapias said. "The earthquake hit in Lindon. The aftershocks have gone all over the state."

At the Mercado Latino at 275 S. University Ave. in Provo, owners knew that fear was the reason business was so slow. Many people are afraid immigration officials are still out there looking to pick up more undocumented residents.

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