AZ man to be sentenced in illegal hiring case
Associated Press |
Posted: Thursday, March 29, 2012 2:01 am | Comments
A southern Arizona contractor who pleaded guilty to knowingly hiring
illegal immigrants is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in Tucson.
Ivan Hardt, owner of Sun Dry Wall & Stucco Inc. of Sierra Vista,
faces up to six months in jail for the misdemeanor conviction.
He also pleaded guilty last year to a felony charge of conspiring to
harbor illegal immigrants, but sentencing on the felony conviction is
set for Oct. 29.
The 2007 bust of Hardt's business represented a new approach by
federal authorities in Arizona that focused on criminal cases against
Some violators viewed the previous strategy of seeking only civil
penalties as the cost of doing business.
Now, people who hire illegal immigrants could face jail time, which
authorities hope will be a stronger deterrent.
Read more: http://azstarnet.com/news/state-and-regional/az-man-to-be-
Note: interesting story, but much of it doesn't ring true.
Especially the "guards" taking them across the river.
'Man without country' wins illegal reentry case
March 28, 2012 10:59 PM
Jared Taylor, Twitter: @jaredataylor
McALLEN — Had Robin Whiteley worn long sleeves that day in March
2011, he may still be a free man in Mexico.
But the kidnapping that ensued may have dealt him a new chance at
regaining status to live in the United States — something he has only
known since birth, just to have it taken away following a felony drug
conviction more than a decade ago.
A jury found Whiteley, 38, not guilty of illegal reentry this week
following a trial that stretched over three days before Chief Judge
Ricardo Hinojosa in a McAllen federal courtroom.
Adopted by his Texan parents from Juarez, Mexico just two days after
his birth in 1974, Whiteley says he knows little of life south of the
Rio Grande — except on the stints following each of his five
deportations from the United States.
He has no Mexican birth certificate or identification, but a 2000
drug conviction classified him as an aggravated felon.
Prior to the conviction, Whiteley never obtained U.S. immigration
status beyond permanent residency — marking him as eligible for
deportation. He has reentered the U.S. six times since his first
His last trip back in April 2011 was the first since his legal
troubles began that did not end with another conviction. Now his
lawyer said Whiteley will ask the Board of Immigration Appeals to
reconsider his first deportation order or allow him apply for asylum
in the U.S., after he proved duress at his illegal reentry trial.
Whiteley testified in his own defense during his trial, telling the
jury of what led to his kidnapping and what he called a forced
reentry into the United States.
Whiteley was at a downtown Reynosa café surfing the Internet on March
28, 2011. He would drop in to Internet cafes and email his family
almost every day, telling his mother that he was still OK, even if he
lacked the paperwork to legally work in Mexico and had been working
odd jobs while renting a room from a distant friend of a friend.
Two men who Whiteley claimed were from the Gulf Cartel confronted him
as he left the Internet café. They told him to get in a van.
The men noticed his tattoos and asked if he worked with the Zetas or
"I didn't know what was going on," he testified.
They rode for about 15 minutes until they arrived at a two-story
house surrounded by a concrete wall. Whiteley didn't know where he
was. Inside, scores of other migrants were huddled in rooms under
guard by a handful of men armed with pistols and assault rifles.
The men ordered Whiteley to empty his pockets. He had about $400 in
cash, a cell phone and a photocopy of his birth certificate with him.
And then he was told to sit down and wait.
Steel bars were on the windows and the doors were padlocked shut.
"There was no way for us to get out," he said. "It was so crowded to
where people were sitting in closets."
Whiteley asked when he would be able to leave. He wanted to know what
was going to happen .
"They told me not to worry and to go sit down," Whiteley said. "They
told me 'Don't worry. We will tell you when the time comes. Just sit
So he waited with the others, wondering what was to come.
'I DIDN' T KNOW IF THEY WERE GOING TO KILL US'
Whiteley said he spoke with some of the other people locked in the
stash house. Many claimed they were on buses heading toward the
United States, but were kidnapped and taken there before they arrived
at the border. "We didn't know what was going on or how we would
leave this place," he said.
Whiteley said he does not speak Spanish well, but he managed to learn
that many of the people were not from Mexico. Many were from other
Central American countries, looking to cross into the United States.
Days passed, and more migrants were forced into the house. A new
victim entered and kept asking the guards why he was put in the
house, Whiteley said. They told the man to sit down.
"He was real anxious," Whiteley testified. "He was real mad about
The man paced through the room as Whiteley sat on the floor with the
others. He wouldn't calm down. He told a guard that he was hungry.
The guard told him to sit with the others and shut up.
Nighttime fell, and the man took a 6-inch shard of broken glass from
a window, Whiteley said. The man quietly approached an armed guard
from behind and jabbed the glass into one of his armpits, cutting
him open. "He pulled it back and was trying to get him on his
neck," Whiteley said.
The guard screamed for help. Other guards came and tackled the rogue
kidnap victim. They dragged him up the stairs to the master bathroom
on the house's second floor.
One of the guards entered with two wooden beams tied together into a
paddle. The man's screams echoed through the house, Whiteley said.
"You could hear them hitting this guy with the board," he said. "He
was screaming and then they stopped."
A few minutes passed. The guards left the man in the bathroom. The
man tried to emerge from the bathroom, asking the other migrants for
help, to no avail.
"We were scared and told him to go back inside," Whiteley said. "He
kept screaming 'Help me! Help me! Help me!'"
The man kept sobbing in the bathroom. Eventually, the guards
returned. One carried a concrete block. "You could hear them
hitting him again and hitting him again and again and again with the
board," Whiteley said. "Then they hit him with the cinder block."
Hours passed. The beating continued through the night. The guards'
boss — a man they called "Gordo" — came into Whiteley's room and
shined a flashlight across the faces of each person inside. He told
them he would shoot whomever he stopped his flashlight upon.
"I didn't know if they were going to kill us or what they were going
to do," Whiteley testified. "All I could think about was whether I
was going to live or die."
But the guard didn't shoot. One of his underlings told him to spare
their lives, that they didn't help the man who attacked the guard.
Night turned to day, and the beating continued. Eventually the man's
A guard announced he was dead.
'I COULDN'T RUN ANYMORE'
Days passed until the guards handed Whiteley a cell phone and told
him to call his mother. They demanded that she send $600 via Western
Union to them within the next 30 minutes.
Whiteley reached his mother, Lora, and she sent the money from a
supermarket near her home in Lufkin. "I had about 30 minutes and I
had to go to Western Union," Lora Whiteley testified. "He called and
asked if I sent it and I said I did."
Lora Whiteley would not hear from her son again until he was detained
by U.S. Border Patrol agents several days later.
Chief Judge Hinojosa asked Whiteley whether the money was to pay the
guards to smuggle him into the U.S. — something he denied throughout
"I did not pay anybody to take me to the United States. I did not
solicit anybody to take me to the United States," Whiteley testified.
But he was forced to go back to the U.S. anyway, he said.
Whiteley was rounded up with a half dozen others and taken to a shack
near the Rio Grande at dusk, he said. He didn't know where he was.
The guards led the group to the river and ordered them to cross. All
he had was the clothes on his back, he said.
The guards led the migrants across in a raft. They hid in the bushes
near the northern banks of the river until before sunrise. What they
did not know was Border Patrol agents had been watching them with
infrared cameras for several hours.
The migrants' guide told them to go atop a levee and run as fast as
they could. And then the agents moved in with SUVs and all terrain
"I came to the point where I couldn't run anymore," Whiteley said.
An agent asked Whiteley where he was from in Spanish. He responded in
English that he didn't know. "How can you not know where you're
from?" the agent responded, somewhat incredulous, Whiteley
testified. "I just started laughing and said it was a long story."
Mexican federal police raided the stash house where Whiteley was kept
weeks after he was forced to leave. Officers rescued 68 migrants who
said they'd been kidnapped off buses heading to Reynosa. The victims
told police their captors claimed to be with the Gulf Cartel.
Officers seized several pickup trucks and a BMW sedan, all with
gunshot damage, as well as an AK-47 and a pistol.
LONG ROAD AHEAD
Illegal reentry cases such as Whiteley's rarely go to trial — fewer
than five dozen out of more than 23,000 people. And even fewer have
positive outcomes for the defendant.
Of the 23,047 illegal reentry cases prosecuted by U.S. Attorneys
nationwide in a yearlong period ending March 31, 2011 — the most
recent statistics available — only two ended with not guilty
verdicts. (Another 625 were dismissed and a judge acquitted five
others; the other 97 percent of cases ended with guilty verdicts.)
Jurors returned Monday evening with a not guilty verdict — something
of a surprise in the courtroom, said Whiteley's lawyer, Nigel J. Cohen.
Despite the acquittal, Whiteley remains in limbo. Winning the illegal
reentry case does means he is not flagged for deportation. He can ask
an immigration judge to grant him asylum to stay in the U.S., given
that he won his trial based on duress — that he was forced to make
the illegal reentry.
Cohen said he also would ask the Board of Immigration Appeals to
reverse Whiteley's previous deportation order following his felony
Cohen said his client was in the process of arriving Wednesday at the
Port Isabel Detention Center.
"It's still a pretty long road ahead," Cohen said.
After he's been lost in the labyrinth of U.S. immigration law for
more than a decade, Whiteley's appeal and asylum request aren't
guarantees he will be able to legally live in the only country he's
But for the first time in years, he may have found a path out of the