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Families, friends fearful after raid

Published: Wednesday, July 1 2015 6:46 a.m. MDT

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) 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)
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.
But for Marissa, whose family owns the shop, that fear also turns to frustration.
"What people don't understand is ... they don't see the poverty these people live in (in Mexico)," she said. "They're living in cardboard boxes."
While on a multi-media internship from Utah Valley State College to a television station in Mexico, she was saddened to learn the top editor made only $300 a month — and that was with an education.
There are no opportunities in Mexico, she said. That's why people come to the states. They need a way to put food on their family's table.
And even though she's frustrated with the situation, Marissa said she's still a bit scared and asked that the Deseret Morning News not print her last name.
The wave of fear also swept through the Alpine and Provo School districts.
Staff at Canyon View Junior High School, at 625 E. 950 North in Orem, said a few students, who were visibly upset or crying, checked out of school on Thursday. There were slightly more absences than normal for Friday, they added.
Sharon Elementary School in Orem is 50 percent Hispanic and had six students check out Thursday and six students absent Friday because of the raid, said assistant principal Susann Wagner.
"These raids are hard on the kids," she said.
Orem Junior High, with a student population that's 21 percent Hispanic, didn't have attendance problems, but several students wanted to start a petition to free the detainees, said Dennis Bacon, assistant principal. But after talking with the student council, the students decided it would be more productive to write letters expressing support to the detainees and their families, Bacon said.
It's especially frustrating for Castaneda, a legal citizen, whose husband has been approved for legal papers, but is still on the waiting list to get them.
"Instead of being able to help these people through the system, (we) make it much more difficult," said Ignacio Garcia, professor of history at Brigham Young University who specializes in Mexican American Latino civil rights issues in history. "They're not moving to El Salvador ... (or) Cuba ... (or) Jamaica. Why? There are no jobs there. Every Latino will tell you they came to this country because somebody in their family whispered that there was a job to be gotten here. Our war against undocumented is like our war against drugs. As long as you have this great demand, then you're going to have people coming ... in their search for wanting to make a better life."


Contributing: Deborah Bulkeley
E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com, astewart@desnews.com

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