County finds 'deplorable conditions'

Rodents, sewage overflow found in homes near eatery in recent immigration raid

March 21, 2010|By Nicole Fuller |

In the wake of a federal immigration raid at a Hanover restaurant this month, Anne Arundel County officials targeted several homes near the business where they say illegal workers were living and discovered numerous violations.

The county Health Department, along with the permitting and inspections office, found 20 violations at three homes, including unsafe structures and junk and debris.

"Employers must be held accountable for violating federal immigration laws, as well as the negative impact they have on the community for forcing their workers to live in deplorable conditions," said Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, who ordered the inspections. "Our local law enforcement and county agencies play an important role in making sure that these actions are not tolerated."

Leopold was on the scene March 11 when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents took 29 people into custody for alleged immigration violations during simultaneous raids on the Timbuktu restaurant, another eatery, several residences and an office.

Timbuktu and several nearby residences connected to the business were served with warrants. Eighteen county police officers participated in the effort.

Ernestine Fobbs, an ICE spokeswoman, did not return a call seeking comment on the current status of the case.

Each violation of the county construction code carries a possible fine of $500. Violations of the property maintenance code and zoning code carry a possible fine of $125 per day. If the zoning violations are not corrected and injunctive proceedings are initiated, the owner can be fined up to $500 per day.

Timbuktu, a casual restaurant at 1726 Dorsey Road near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, was employing illegal immigrants, according to ICE officials.

According to county officials, the homes are owned by Timbuktu LLC and were used as residences for workers. The owner could not be reached, and a manager at the restaurant declined to comment last week.

William Winter, special agent in charge at the Baltimore ICE office, said the raids were done "to ensure that employers are held accountable for maintaining a legal work force."

County officials identified the addresses of the alleged violations as:

•1738 Dorsey Road: untagged vehicle, junk and debris, illegal dwelling with no windows, sewage overflow, large amounts of garbage, garage used as a dwelling, rodent infestation.

•1754 Dorsey Road: untagged vehicle, junk and debris, large amounts of garbage, two sheds in disrepair, rodent infestation.

•1704 Dorsey Road: junk and debris, unsafe structure; an adjacent parcel was cited for junk and debris.

•1726 Dorsey Road: untagged vehicle, junk and debris, illegal deck, unsafe structure with fire damage.

Leopold, a Republican, has taken a strong stand against illegal immigration since taking office in 2006. In 2007, he issued an order requiring businesses to sign a contract swearing they don't employ people in the country illegally and allowing the county to halt business with contractors that do.

He also directed Anne Arundel's jails to perform an immigration check on all arrestees and to refer suspected illegal immigrants to federal authorities. He created task forces in the county police department to deal with illegal immigration.

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