9/18/2014

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Restaurant owner on police raids: 'I don't know what they are looking for'

Restaurant owner on police raids: 'I don't know what they are looking for'

YAKIMA, Wash. -- 17 of the 21 men and women arrested when federal agents raided dozens of homes and cars made their first appearance Thursday in Federal Court. Both El Mirador locations in town were also raided under suspicion they were knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.

While federal agents came armed with weapons, KIMA Facebook fans came armed with words, speaking out about Wednesday's raids of suspected illegal immigrants.

Thousand of comments filled our page. One comment reads, "They broke the law and now are paying the price."

A thought echoed by Yakima resident Daniel Ross.

"Everyone has to abide by the law, so why not them, too?" Ross said.

Many other Facebook fan feels this shouldn't be a crime, stating "they weren't doing any illegal stuff. They were working to provide for their family."

"The fact that they are working makes a difference?" Action News asked.

"That makes all the difference," Yakima resident Lacie said. "They weren't living off the welfare system. They are working to provide for and just live life."

A Latina who asked not to be identified says she sees both sides.

"It is wrong. Of course, as a Hispanic, you want to say it's not wrong, because it's for the right reasons, but it's still illegal."

Action News learned the people in custody face charges range from from misusing a social security card to unlawful production of immigration documents.

Our cameras weren't allowed in the Federal Courthouse, but more than a dozen of those arrested Wednesday made their first appearance.

The majority of those facing charges either worked at one of the El Mirador restaurant or are related to owner, Abraham Brambila.

He's under scrutiny for hiring them but was not arrested.

"I don't know what they are looking for," Bambila said. "They look for papers, social security for employees."

Brambila said he is cooperating with agents and has no knowledge of employees making counterfeit documents under his roof.

"So you never knowingly-hired someone who was illegal?" KIMA asked.

He wouldn't answer the question on the record, but he admits while he asks each employee for their papers, he doesn't check them to make sure they're legal.

Brambila believes these people needed a job and had the proper documents to be hired.

"It's family, employees, business. It's all we do," he said.

But for now the restaurants are closed -- following the massive raids.

El Mirador's owner says he plans to reopen both restaurants by the end of the week with new employees.

Those arrested will have a bail hearing next week.

The president of the Yakima County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said the timing of the raids with the recent push for immigration reform in Washington D.C. is the reason for the strong reaction to this week's raids. Watch the video below:

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