'We should be treated like human beings, not animals'

Zoe Greszler • Updated Jun 7, 2018 at 12:02 AM

PERKINS TWP. — When Rodolfo Reyes and his 19-year-old daughter left their Willard home they had no idea their typical day at work would turn into a terrifying and embarrassing experience they won’t soon forget. 

Reyes was born in Mexico but said he became a legal U.S. citizen about six years ago, about the time he started working at Corso’s Garden Center. That’s where he and his daughter were working Tuesday when the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Border Patrol raided the building at about 7:15 a.m.

The federal agents used a search warrant at both the Perkins and Castalia locations, arresting 114 illegal aliens, said Steve Francis, special agent in charge of Homeland Security investigations, according to information in the Sandusky Register. Reyes said it looked like most of those taken were from Norwalk and Willard.

The allegations leading to the raid involved harboring and hiring of illegal aliens, aggravated identity theft and impersonation of U.S. persons, Francis said.

Agents carried boxes out from Corso’s location, 3404 Milan Road, as they seized “a lot of documentary evidence,” Francis said.

Reyes said while he knows “they have a job to do,” he said the officers were “very, very rough,” and in some cases inhumane in their treatment of the hundreds of workers in the warehouses. 

“A bunch of cops came running into the warehouses, pointing guns at people,” he said. “Everybody was scared. They tied everybody’s hands up with black zip ties. Even we (my daughter and I) were tied up even though we’re U.S. citizens.”

Reyes said when the police burst through the doors with weapons and police K-9s “everybody panicked because it scared them” and they began to run. He said the police kept shouting “this is a search warrant” but “wouldn’t say what the search warrant was for.”

“The police were real, real, real rough with the people,” he said. 

“They had an older man who was 50 or 60 years old; they put zip ties on him too. Then an old woman, she was running. She said ‘I see everybody running, so why wouldn't I run. I didn’t know what was going on.’ Then they started to go through all of our things and they put us in groups of like five and started taking people out.”

Reyes said officers went through his car and lunch box and moved his tools in his car, but “would never tell me what they were looking for.”

“I know they’re doing their job and some of them are not U.S. citizens, but we are human,” Reyes said. “We should be treated like human beings, not animals. I am a U.S. citizen. But it doesn’t matter where you are or who you are or where you are from. We are supposed to be treated like humans. We shouldn’t be treated like animals. Everybody was running, and they were throwing dogs on the people and pointing guns. That’s ridiculous. That’s too much.”

Reyes said some workers tried to use their cell phones to take photos or videos of the raid, but police “wouldn’t allow” them to use or have their phones and “started pointing their guns at us again.” Reyes said the agents then confiscated some of the devices. 

He said the agents separated the men and women, putting the women, including his daughter, “in another place.” He said he knew not to run, but was fearful for his daughter. He said he thought of the recent events that happened at the border in Texas, where a woman tried to run from police. An officer accidentally fired at the woman and killed her. 

“What if another accident happens here because they want to point the guns at people,” Reyes said. 

“I didn’t think they could arrest me because we are U.S. citizens. My biggest concern was my daughter with the lady who was shot in the head for running. I kept thinking ‘Did my daughter (try to run)? Is she OK?’ I asked one of the police if she was OK and ‘Could I see my daughter?’ ... He said ‘Your daughter is not a baby anymore.’ But you’re always a parent and my daughter is still my daughter. She’s still going to be my baby.”

Reyes said he eventually was able to catch up with his daughter, who was OK, but said they also were bound with zip ties for at least an hour.

Reyes said people were gathered in groups of five and led out of the building. When he told officers he was legally on U.S. soil, he said the agents asked to see his ID, Social Security number, U.S. passport and all of his phone numbers.

“That was all totally ridiculous. It was crazy. We were scared,” he said. “He said well, ‘I’m doing my job.’ I said, ‘Well, I was just doing my job too.’ That was totally crazy.”

The workers that weren’t arrested were told to “go home for a free day,” Reyes said. 

“The officers told us we had the rest of the day off,” he said.

The execution of warrants represents just the beginning of the investigation, which first started last October, when Border Patrol arrested a suspected document vendor, said Khaalid Walls, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman.

“Now the agents and officers will start conducting interviews,” Francis said. “We are attempting to identify what criminal network brought over 100 illegal aliens to Ohio to work. We are looking at the employers or other networks that are smuggling individual into the U.S. and finding them places of employment.”

The Associated Press reported the raid was part of the Trump administration’s growing crackdown on employers hiring people who are in the country illegally.

“If you are a legitimate business you have nothing to be concerned about, but if you are harboring or hiring illegal aliens you will be identified, arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Francis added.

The illegal aliens who were arrested will be detained, pending removal proceedings at facilities in Ohio and Michigan, Walls said.

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