A criminal investigation that spread across three Iowa towns led to more than a dozen arrests Thursday. During the course of their criminal investigation, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrested 18 people suspected of being illegal immigrants in Pella, Oskaloosa and Newton.
Business owner and Newton resident Gary Smith said was taken off guard when he saw immigration officials at the “Newton Family Restaurant” just a few doors down from his rental business, Smith’s Quality Rental.
“When we drove by we were shocked we were going to go down for dinner,” said Gary Smith, “It`s a good restaurant. And their food was good. They gave good service.”
Just a few doors down from Smith's own business, the family restaurant now sports a hand written sign that says "closed for maintenance". People inside declined to comment Thursday afternoon.
Immigration attorney James Benzoni says just from initial reports he can gauge what happened. He said, “the immigration service apparently had enough information to go to a judge or go to an administrative official authorizes to sign a warrant and actually get a search warrant.” Benzoni continues, based on his previous experiences, and said, “That means they have enough information to establish a probable cause that somebody was violating immigration law. Assuming they had it, they went into the restaurants, they would have probably blocked the entrances. They would have requested all the employees to provide identification.”
Benzoni says in most cases anyone who couldn't provide that information faces further questioning or even arrest. That was the case for 18-people in Pella, Oskaloosa, and Newton Thursday. Federal agents say the criminal investigation isn't over.