More than 300 federal agents raided a North Texas trailer-manufacturer on Tuesday that is accused hiring 160 undocumented workers despite being aware that they’re illegals.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents surprised the company with a criminal search warrant just before lunch at Load Trail located between Bonham and Paris, around two hours northeast of Dallas.
It was a massive operation with agents coming all over from New Orleans, Houston and San Antonio. Some arrived in land-based vehicles, others even employed helicopters to bring them to Load Trail Trailer’s 100-acre facility in Sumner, Texas.
Katrina Berger, Homeland Security Special-Agent-in-Charge of Investigations said the agents detained 160 undocumented workers as part of their larger probe, although they did not make any criminal arrests.
Berger said Load Trail Trailers is regarded as one of the “fastest growing trailer brands." The company builds trailers for pick-ups, not 18-wheelers. A company insider said it’s nothing but “greed” that motivated Load Trail to hire illegals. Business was doing so that they had a backlog of orders which required additional workers.
The company started as a family-owned business in 1996 has grown, now employing more than 500 people. The shop also includes more than 420,000 square feet of facilities. It even gained the award for the “Fastest Growing Trailer Brand of the Year” in 2014 and 2015.
Former employees say the company makes from 75 to 100 trailers each day and has grown to earnings of more than $120 million annually.
A staff spoke to local media on the condition of anonymity. She told the local media: “I knew these were clearly illegals. This is not the way we are supposed to be hiring. They told me to keep doing my job. That if they were visited by ICE again, they would simply pay the fine and go on.”
It’s the second time in only four years that Load Trail Trailers has faced federal immigration investigation. In 2014, Load Trail paid a $444,993 fine for “knowingly hiring and continuing to employ unauthorized workers.” Federal reports also said the company employed 179 unauthorized workers at that time.
Berger said companies sometimes defy immigration law to attempt to gain an unfair advantage over competitors. Berger explained the implications of such illegal actions. She said:"Businesses that knowingly hire illegal aliens create an unfair advantage over their competing businesses. In addition, they take jobs away from U.S. citizens and legal residents, and they create an atmosphere poised for exploiting their illegal workforce.”
Berger said that some companies may have gotten away with it for some time but that they’re watching, and more importantly, “we’re coming.”
The undocumented workers from Load Trail are not off the hook yet as criminal arrests could still happen in the coming weeks as the probe progresses.
ICE established a 24-hour toll-free detainee locator hotline at 1-888-351-4024. The undocumented immigrants are being held at three detention centers – two in the Metroplex and one in Oklahoma.