STATE COLLEGE — A spokeswoman with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a statement this morning about the raid that took place Thursday at several State College restaurants.
“Last week,” spokeswoman Nicole Navas wrote in an email to the Centre Daily Times, “ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents conducted an enforcement action at numerous locations in the State College, Pa. area. During the execution of federal search warrants, HSI special agents encountered and detained 10 individuals from China, Guatemala, Thailand, Mexico and Indonesia, who were identified as being unlawfully in the United States and/or illegally re-entering the country after having been removed, a federal felony.”
Answers had been elusive after the raids, during which ICE officers swept into the State College area and visited at least eight of the Asian-owned businesses, questioning staff and hauling out cartons of alleged evidence.
The detained individuals, Navas said, “are currently in ICE custody pending immigration removal proceedings or removal from the United States,” adding that a criminal investigation is ongoing.
Questions directed to State College police, who participated in the raids along with investigators from the state Attorney General’s Office, had been met with referrals to the media liaison at DHS. Calls to the Borough Council and Mayor Elizabeth Goreham asking about the effect on local business received the same response.
Speaking to other offices in the county hit the same wall, often because they were not in on the investigation. Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said she would not comment, referring all questions to DHS. Centre County Sheriff Denny Nau said he was “out of the loop” on the investigation.
The redirection didn’t stop at the county line.
At least 13 people were bound at the wrists and taken away from businesses in vans on Thursday. Endi Lu, owner of Ni Hao at Northland Center and Bellefonte Wok, restaurants that were not targeted by ICE, has family whose businesses were hit. At one of them, College Buffet on North Atherton Street, three men were questioned by authorities. Lu confirmed that all three were released later in the day.
The Centre Daily Times followed a tip that others detained in the raid were taken to Clinton County Correctional Facility. Calls to that jail asking about the prisoners did not receive confirmation or denial, but were immediately redirected to an ICE office. That office deferred comment to ICE’s Philadelphia office. No answers there led back to Washington.
Navas had said from the first contact that the cone of silence over the maneuvers was for a reason.
“In order not to compromise this ongoing criminal investigation, no additional details are available at his time,” she said Thursday.
U.S. Rep Glenn Thompson told the CDT on Thursday that he had been informed that the investigation was immigration-related. On Monday, Thompson said he had received no further updates.