Update (2:02 p.m.): Bear Creek Arsenal issued the following statement to the Rant regarding the arrests: “Today there were several employees of Bear Creek Arsenal who were detained by law enforcement. This is a result of an investigation conducted by Homeland Security into employment that was obtained by either ID theft or fraudulent information. Bear Creek Arsenal has cooperated with Homeland Security during this lengthy process. Homeland Security confirmed that our Human Resource Department had complied with all laws, rules, and regulations in our hiring practice.”
Update (1:39 p.m.): A Facebook post from Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter says “approximately 30 people” were arrested today. The Rant reported earlier that 70 were detained, but did not provide a clear number arrested.
Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested approximately 30 men and women for “identification theft and fraud” from Bear Creek Arsenal — a manufacturer of AR-15 firearms and firearm products — in Sanford this morning.
The incident has led to several Latino-owned businesses in Sanford closing their doors today.
According to the Raleigh-based online news site QuéPasa, ICE agents entered the Bear Creek facility, located at 310 McNeill Road in Sanford, at around 8 a.m. Tuesday morning. Sources told the Rant that at least 70 people were detained, though Lee County Sheriff Tracy Carter could not provide a number of people taken into custody [Carter later posted on Facebook the number arrested was closer to 30].
“There was an ICE raid on a local business today,” Carter told The Rant. “It was something ICE had been working on for a while. We did assist with the operation. We don’t know how many people were taken into custody.”
State troopers, federal agents and Lee County deputies could be seen pulling over cars along U.S. 1 near the Burns Drive exit as early as 7:30 a.m. Tuesday (Burns Drive is one of two entrance ways to Bear Creek Arsenal). Carter wanted to stress that this was not a “random search,” and said there were “extenuating circumstances concerning identification theft and fraud.”
“[ICE] didn’t just show up here and go to a random business and start rounding people up,” Carter said. “This was based on an investigation of this business and their hiring practices and the undocumented individuals who were working there.”
One local law office posted to Facebook the contact information for a number of immigration attorneys and urged anyone who had a family member detained to seek legal counsel.
Chatter on social media this morning suggested other industries and businesses received visits from ICE as well, but those reports have not been confirmed. Still, the Bear Creek arrests have had a domino effect — San Felipe, Aye Toro and El Molcajete Mexican restaurants were closed for lunch today (photo right), several car washes and other Latino-owned businesses have closed their doors. Some students at Lee County High School have reportedly checked out early today as well.
According to QuéPasa, workers at Bear Creek who couldn’t confirm their resident status were detained in the business’ break room.
“Many of our friends are there … they have sent us text messages where they tell us they are separating those who do not have papers,” Sergio Jiménez told Qué Pasa. The site released the below photo:
Christian Canales, an employee of Pentair in Sanford, posted a Facebook Live video at around 9:30 a.m. today after he unsuccessfully tried to pick up a friend from Bear Creek after word came down of the arrests. In his video, Canales shows his ID to agents in the parking lot at Bear Creek and is told he can leave the property. On his way out, Canales sees a white van that reads “Factory Outlet” on the side and suggests it’s an undercover ICE van.
Video below: (Warning … while The Rant did its best to bleep expletives in the video below, our Spanish is terrible … so those words got by)
“Let everyone know in Sanford,” Canales says at the end of the video. “[ICE] doesn’t give a —-. They do not care. How many people in Sanford I know worked right here? How many families are going to be split up? Thank you … this is ridiculous.”