119 Illegal Aliens Arrested in Track Raid

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From Times Wire Services

Border Patrol and immigration officials arrested 119 illegal Mexican aliens in a raid Friday at the San Luis Rey Downs track and said some of them were found living in “deplorable” conditions.

Harold Ezell, western regional commissioner for the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said many of the aliens were living in small sheds with inadequate ventilation or sanitary facilities at the horse-training facility in northern San Diego County.

Ezell said the incident may jeopardize a temporary guest worker program for the horse racing industry.


Foreign Worker Credentials

He said three of the aliens arrested displayed H-2 visas, a special foreign worker credential issued for 363 aliens who work at Del Mar in San Diego County, Santa Anita in Arcadia and Hollywood Park in Inglewood. San Luis Rey Downs, a training track located about 45 miles north of San Diego, was not included in the H-2 program.

“Despite the best efforts of the INS to assist the horse racing industry with the H-2 program, some abuses are evident, as illustrated by the arrest today of three visa holders at the Downs,” Ezell said. “Their failure to exert a good faith effort may jeopardize any further agreement.”

Trainers have been given until October to locate, hire and train legal workers.

INS officials were accompanied on the 1 a.m. raid by state health officials.

‘Nothing Has Changed’

“This is the fourth time we’ve been to San Luis Rey Downs, and nothing has changed,” Ezell said. “Living conditions for many employees--some found eight to 10 in a room, others locked into sheds from the outside--are deplorable.”

Seven of those arrested sought or were processed for deportation proceedings. The rest opted to return voluntarily to Mexico, according to Border Patrol spokesman Ed Pyeatt.

The aliens were working as stable hands and exercisers for the horses, Pyeatt said.

In a raid in August at Del Mar, 123 undocumented workers were arrested, even after a week of warning that the raid was imminent. Two months later, 168 aliens were arrested at Santa Anita.