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INS Holds 600 Illegal Aliens in Sweep of Six Job Locations

Times Staff Writer

More than 600 suspected illegal alien workers have been arrested by U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service agents since Monday in a special weeklong sweep dubbed “Operation Employer,” INS officials said Wednesday.

The operation, similar to the nationwide “Operation Jobs,” in which 6,000 aliens were arrested three years ago, is to “see that jobs now being held by illegal aliens are made available to citizens,” said Harold Ezell, INS regional commissioner.

Ernest Gustafson, INS district director who is overseeing the operation, said in an interview Wednesday that 638 alien employees had been picked up at six different sites in Los Angeles and Orange counties since Monday. He predicted that another 300 or 400 would be arrested at other locations today and Friday.

Normally, he said, 200 or 300 workers are arrested in such raids a week.

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Sites Raided Before

Gustafson said the arrested workers were earning anywhere from the minimum wage to $8 an hour at manufacturing plants that make doors, furniture and other products. All the sites targeted for the operation so far, he said, had been raided by the INS in the past.

The site at which the most aliens were arrested in the current sweep was at Lights of America in the City of Industry, where 254 workers were apprehended. A spokesman for the company refused comment.

Gustafson said it was too early to tell if legal residents would apply for the vacated jobs. A survey taken after Operation Jobs in 1982 showed that 80% of the illegal workers arrested in Los Angeles and Orange counties were back on their jobs within three months.

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Joe Flanders, an INS spokesman, asserted that Americans would take the jobs if they knew about the openings. “That’s part of the problem, just getting the word out,” he said. “We frequently contact the state employment office. Once they hear about it, they’ll apply.”

Loaded Onto Convoy

As 194 workers from the B. P. John Co. in Santa Ana were being loaded onto a convoy of 30 vehicles Wednesday morning, a supervisor at the furniture factory predicted that the operation will not result in more jobs for American citizens.

“I think (the raids) are wrong because these people come over here to make an honest dollar,” said the supervisor, who asked not to be identified. “American citizens come in sometimes, but it’s a grueling job so they don’t last long. These people are very dependable.”

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