HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) — Customs and Border Protection agents have made headlines twice this week.
If their activities so far in 2017 are any indication, this is likely just the beginning, thanks to a new approach to the same federal immigration laws.
A spokesman for CBP emphasized Thursday this week’s enforcement activities were investigated heavily before any action was taken. And they were targeted against the people who were ultimately arrested after the agency received tips, in one case anonymously, and in another case, from other worker on the same job site.
The first group of arrests happened Monday evening in Hamburg, when 23 people suspected of being in the country illegally were rounded up.
Among that group of men, ages 19 to 63, were four from Hondurus, four from El Salvador, seven from Guatemala, five from Mexico, one from Nicaragua and two from Brazil.
They were picked up by federal agents at a 7/11 off Southwestern Boulevard, located less than a half mile from a construction site where they worked.
The site’s general contractor is DGA Builders, out of Rochester.
News 4 contacted DGA multiple times Thursday. When a woman answered late in the day, she said the company had no comment.
The second bust happened Wednesday afternoon on Grand Island.
Arrested in that case were more than a dozen people, one of which the border patrol said was a sex offender who had been previously deported.
Each of them lived and worked on the island.
“We do not want dangerous people on Grand Island,” said town Supervisor Nate McMurray.
McMurray said he’s working to learn more details about the bust and about the people arrested, who he said both live and work on Grand Island.
But, he said he hopes island residents take a balanced approach to the news.
“You don’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction, but you don’t want to be naive either,” he said. “These people deserve a fair hearing and due process, and they deserve all the rights afforded them under the law. But I’m glad we’re taking care of it and I’m glad we’re protecting the citizens of Grand Island.”
McMurray offers a unique perspective regarding immigration. His wife Min became a U.S. citizen in 2001. The couple has been married for 17 years and has two children.
McMurray said he remembers vividly the ceremony, which they both attended in California when he was in law school.
“I’m actually getting moved thinking about it now. It’s quite a moving experience,” he said. “And I know from many people in that room, they value their American citizenship far more than many of us do because they’ve had to earn it, and they’ve had to go through the process of becoming an American citizen. They know how important it is.”
CBP officials declined to provide the locations or the names of the companies for whom those arrested worked, offering only that they were part of construction companies out of state.
This type of activity is expected to continue across Western New York in the months to come. The country’s immigration laws have not changed, but the approach has.
What was once a catch-and-release approach under the Obama administration, has become a detain-and process approach under new president Donald Trump.