Updated: Immigration agents arrest 114 at Ohio retailer/landscaper

Updated: Immigration agents arrest 114 at Ohio retailer/landscaper

According to Cleveland.com, Corso's Flower & Garden Center was the target of a sting operation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.

ALSO READ: Corso’s issues statement, AmericanHort’s Craig Regelbrugge discusses industry ramifications in aftermath of ICE raid

From Cleveland.com:

Sandusky, Ohio (AP) -- U.S. immigration agents made more than 100 arrests Tuesday at a gardening and landscaping company, aided by about 200 law enforcement workers in one of the largest employer stings in recent years.

The 114 arrests occurred at two locations of Corso's Flower & Garden Center, one in Sandusky, a resort city on Lake Erie, and another in nearby Castalia. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it expected criminal charges including identity theft and tax evasion.

No criminal charges have been filed against Corso's, but the employer is under investigation, authorities said. Two locations were searched, and Khaalid Walls, an agency spokesman, said "a large volume of business documents" were seized.

Read the rest of Cleveland.com's coverage here.

From New England Public Radio:

After a raid on Tuesday that led to the arrest of 114 undocumented employees — rounded up by more than 100 immigration agents, using dogs and helicopters — at an Ohio landscaping company, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials reported some workers have been released for "humanitarian reasons."

Meanwhile, immigrant rights advocates said minors and U.S.-born workers caught up in the sting were released after nearly 12 hours in detention.

Read the rest of New England Public Radio's coverage here.

The impact of immigration on the horticultural workforce has been a common topic of discussion among experts, and Craig Regelbrugge, senior vice president of horticultural advocacy organization AmericanHort, told Garden Center magazine that the situation requires a nuanced approach both in terms of legislation and industry adaptation.

"There will be people calling for the industry to sort of take a look in the mirror and go through some self-analysis and figure out how to get the work done with less labor and how to potentially succeed at attracting more American workers into the industry," Regelbrugge says. "But, all those things aside, we're a full employment economy. The official government agencies that track the statistics on this sort of stuff are now telling us that there are more open jobs than there are people in the labor pool seeking to fill them."

With demand for labor being as high as it is in the horticulture industry, Regelbrugge says the current systems in place to grant working visas to documented immigrants aren't up to the task.

"There's an agricultural visa program, H-2A. We have a lot of folks in our industry who are attempting to use H-2A to supplement their labor. We have a lot of folks in the landscape sector who are looking to the H-2B program and the H-2B program is totally over-subscribed," Regelbrugge says. "The cap was hit in record time this year. Homeland Security just made available an additional 15,000 visas - that represents roughly one quarter of what's actually needed. Those additional 15,000 visas, in a matter of just a few days, more applications have been received for that limited number of visas than there are visas. We really, ultimately, do need legislation that improves the available visas programs and increases the bandwidth of those programs."

Check back later for more updates on this topic.