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Son says parents charged in O'Neill immigration raid wanted his name on property, bank accounts

LINCOLN — In a federal courtroom on Tuesday, the son of illegal immigrants caught up in a raid in O’Neill a year ago explained how his parents worked to avoid detection and deportation.

Antonio Castro said his stepfather and mother listed his name — rather than theirs — as the owner of property or the signature on banking accounts.

After he turned 21, he was asked to be the registered manager for the liquor license for the family’s La Herradura restaurant in O’Neill because the parents lacked the paperwork of legal residents.

When he asked his stepfather why he paid his workers in cash, he was told it was because many of them didn’t have Social Security numbers, and thus were illegally working in the United States.

Castro, now 23, said he had growing fears that his parents would be deported as the summer of 2018 wore on and federal immigration officials began stopping cars to question immigrant workers about his parents’ operation in O’Neill. Once, he even urged his stepfather to go to Las Vegas, where the family owned a handful of homes, to lie low for a while.

“I knew if my dad got caught, he’d be in a lot of trouble and I wouldn’t see him anytime soon,” Castro said.

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The testimony came on the second day of a federal trial of three people charged in an alleged conspiracy targeted in a massive immigration raid in August 2018 on businesses in the O’Neill area. The raid focused on Castro’s stepfather, Juan Carlos Sanchez-Delgado, and his mother, Magdalena Castro Benitez, who ran a staffing service that provided workers — all illegal — for a tomato greenhouse, a potato processing facility, local hog confinement barns and other businesses in the O’Neill area.

The parents also ran a restaurant and a Hispanic grocery store where Castro said he’d withdraw up to $80,000 on paydays to pay workers lined up by the staffing company, JP and Sons.

When these workers were hired, were they asked to provide Social Security numbers or other identification? asked one of the federal prosecutors, Lesley Woods.

“No, ma’am,” Castro responded.

Castro’s stepfather, the purported ringleader of the staffing service and a Mexican national, pleaded guilty in March to conspiring to harbor aliens for financial gain, which is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. Sanchez-Delgado has not yet been sentenced; he has agreed to testify against the three people who have been charged with being part of the conspiracy. Benitez took a plea deal in the case and is scheduled to testify.

The three on trial — John Good, an Atkinson car dealer and businessman; John Glidden, the manager of an Ainsworth hog confinement operation; and Mayra Jimenez, a manager at the O’Neill Ventures tomato greenhouse — have all pleaded not guilty, saying they were unaware that the employees provided were not legal workers.

They are the only ones out of more than 100 people detained in the O’Neill raid to contest the charges. Good, who was the listed owner of La Herradura and also the listed owner of Sanchez-Delgado’s home in O’Neill, has also pleaded not guilty to charges that he laundered money for Sanchez-Delgado and his family.

Earlier on Tuesday, the agent in charge of the O’Neill raid for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Robert Visnaw, testified that local sheriff’s deputies provided the initial tips in April 2017 that led to the raid 16 months later.

Visnaw said that Sanchez-Delgado had been identified as a Mexican citizen, and not a legal U.S. resident, following a traffic stop that spring. Later, in October 2017, two of his staffing service employees came forward, he said, leading to suspicions of a broader conspiracy.

That led to attempts at surveillance of Sanchez-Delgado’s businesses — which Visnaw said proved unsuccessful in a farm town of 3,700 were everyone knew everyone — a “trash pull” of rubbish from the grocery store and eventually to wire taps.

About 5,000 phone calls were captured in less than two months, leading to the enforcement operation, in which more than 400 federal, state and local officers raided businesses in O’Neill, Atkinson, Ainsworth, Long Pine and Stromsburg, as well as in Minnesota.

The defense attorneys on Tuesday asked several times why some others, such as those who owned the hog confinements or managed the tomato plant, were not also indicted. They have claimed that their clients were arrested as “scapegoats” and to justify the massive raid.

Grace: Reality bites when you're a Gen Xer left out of the 'OK boomer' conversations

OK, boomer.

OK, millennial. OK, Generation Z.


We Gen Xers get it. Latchkey kids we were in the 1970s and 1980s. Latchkey kids we remain in our middle-age-hood as you all duke it out for the oxygen online and we just let ourselves into the house and watch some “Love Boat.”

As the generation born between the two largest generations in current America — the baby boomers (76 million Americans born from 1946 to 1964) and millennials (74 million born roughly from 1982 to 2000) — we fewer members of Gen X (59 million born from 1965 to 1981) are used to being overlooked. We are used to being ignored. We are used to being left out of Important Discussions of Culture, Resources and Policies in America.

Our entire lives we’ve heard Marcia-Marcia-Marcia. We are the Jan Brady generation, the middle child who quietly puts up with the nonsense and noise from big brother and little sister in the back seat of our national station wagon. Reality indeed bites.

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Now there’s an extra generational sibling in the car: Generation Z (those born from 2000 on). And we Xers again are sidelined as the youngsters school the oldsters with the dismissive “OK boomer” — as in “whatever, older out-of-touch person.” Even in this latest round of intergenerational warfare, Gen X is cast aside. (Though we had to admire Gen Z for outdoing our own Gen X standard bearer for the eye-roll, pout and glare, Molly Ringwald.)

In case you’re a baby boomer or have the “boomer mindset” — which is what Gen Z is really railing against here — and in case you are out of the “OK boomer” loop, here’s a quick 411. (That is Gen X-speak for information, youngsters, the kind you got in the pre-Alexa, pre-Google caveman era when dialing those digits on a rotary phone could get you someone’s phone number.)

According to the think pieces published last week about what has become a collective, viral middle finger to older people, “OK boomer” was born out of anger over inheriting a mess that wasn’t of their making, as well as the age-old resistance to the older people who just don’t get it. (Don’t believe in climate change? OK boomer. Call me a snowflake for worrying about paying for college? OK boomer.)

“OK boomer” is all over social media. It’s been made into a song. That song has been remixed thousands of times on the video-sharing app TikTok. You can even buy hoodies that have the phrase.

A New York Times examination last week featured 19-year-old college student Peter Kuli, whose TikTok remix of “OK boomer” has become popular. Kuli told the Times that the Internet has given young people “a voice and an outlet to critique the generations who got us into this position. … Gen Z is finally putting their feet in the ground and saying enough is enough.”

Some defensive, over-the-top baby boomer responses seemed to make the Gen Z point. A conservative radio host in Rochester, New York, is being “OK boomer”-ed and more after he insisted that “OK boomer” is ageist and the new N-word. (Yes, he went there). Even Dictionary.com jumped into the fray, saying “boomer” is not offensive while the unprintable N-word “is one of the most offensive words in the English language.”

Gen X takes all this in, the middle child in the middle row, squeezed and left out. We’re like Thanksgiving — the underappreciated and arguably best holiday on the calendar. Thanksgiving asks for nothing except peace at the table, while Halloween and Christmas trample all over us. We’re like the University of Nebraska at Omaha, the quiet star drowned out by Bluejay and Husker fans. We’re like Bellevue and Keystone and all the overlooked neighborhood gems because everyone is me-me-midtown or me-me-McMansion in west O.

Well, we have ideas, too. We have anxieties, too. We are being squeezed between a bigger, demanding older generation whose music we loved and a younger, striving and way-less-private generation whose music we also love. But it gets tiring being in the middle, and we just want to say: OK, boomer, millennial and Z. Just put some Pearl Jam on already. And get to work.

Boomers have some points about paying your dues, being responsible and stepping up. But have they forgotten that they once marched in protest against their own hopelessly out-of-touch elders?

Z is right to be mad about inheriting big problems and right to be worried about whether they will be worse off than their folks — only to be called “snowflake” for raising those issues.

But is it really OK to generalize a group?

If there’s one thing we Xers have learned through years of being ignored, it’s that generations are social constructs that place people in a time period by birth and that’s basically it. Demographers haven’t really settled on exact years for generations, with David Drozd of the University of Nebraska at Omaha calling it more art than science. Defining groups by their generations alone discounts their many individual differences and experiences. And it denies the ways in which they adapt. You know who spends the most time on computer and phone screens? OK boomer, look in the mirror. It might be you.

When I took a completely unscientific survey of colleagues, friends and siblings, I got some predictable responses. A baby boomer reporter kvetched about how we Xers were spoiled hires in the 1990s, wanting plum assignments without paying dues. (OK, boomer. I went to a ton of boring meetings, too, and worked many late nights.) My millennial sister could barely hide her scorn for my Gen X-centered views. “Of course that’s your take,” she said.

Admittedly, I talked to no Zs. A certain major public school district did not jump on my request to interview students. And I was reluctant to give my teenager at home any new ways to roll her eyes at me. I might not be a baby boomer, but as the kids are saying, it’s less about generation and more about mindset.

In the end, we’re all smashed together in the family station wagon, and Dad keeps threatening to stop this car if the kids don’t stop fussing. While the other generations fight it out, we Xers just want to find our Walkman and a good mixtape to drown out the noise.

Weird World-Herald headlines from the archives that leave you wanting more

Creighton students vote in favor of divesting university funds from fossil fuel industry

Creighton University students who cast ballots Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of divesting university funds from the fossil fuel industry.

The students said through their referendum that Creighton should freeze any new investments in fossil fuels. By 2025, the students say, Creighton should divest the 2% of its endowment that is invested in the top 200 carbon-emitting fossil fuel companies. Creighton’s endowment was about $570 million as of mid-2018.

Cindy Workman, a Creighton spokeswoman, said administrators will consider the students’ wishes. “The university will assess its options and provide a statement to campus next week,” Workman said.

About 2,440 Creighton students voted, and 85.8% of them supported the proposal, said Hugh Truempi, a student promoting the referendum. The vote is nonbinding, so it amounts to a student-body recommendation to Creighton’s administration.

“We’re hopeful that they’ll meet our demands,” said one of the leaders of the student movement, Mike Galeski of Omaha. Galeski said the vote reflected not only an acknowledgment of the hazards of climate change but also would be a wise financial decision over the long haul.

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The referendum also says the university should fully divest from fossil fuel companies by the time Creighton reaches carbon neutrality.

Carbon neutrality generally refers to a net amount of zero carbon emissions. Scientists say carbon dioxide, which is emitted into the atmosphere from fossil fuels, traps heat and raises Earth’s temperature. Fossil fuels include coal, oil and natural gas.

Doane University in Crete, Nebraska, agreed this year to end future investments in fossil fuel companies.

Some of the colleges across the nation that have divested from fossil fuels include Seattle and Syracuse Universities and the Universities of Massachusetts, Dayton and California.

California investment managers said they weren’t bowing to political pressure. Instead, they said, such fuels pose “a long-term risk to generating strong returns.”

Although Creighton’s enrollment is about 8,820, Truempi said the turnout was comparatively strong. “Yeah, we’re really fired up,” he said.

Galeski said his organization, originally called Creighton Climate Movement, “has run into quite a few frustrations with this situation of late.”

Among those, he said, his group last week received a letter of demand from Creighton’s general counsel, James Jansen. Jansen said Creighton Climate Movement should stop using the Creighton name on its materials (such as T-shirts) and refrain from using Creighton facilities.

“So it was pretty shocking for us,” Galeski said a few days ago.

Workman said the Rev. Daniel Hendrickson, Creighton’s president, appreciates the students’ concern, commitment and passion.

Workman said Jansen’s letter reflects no negativity toward the organization. Rather, she said, it indicated that the organization hadn’t gone through proper university channels to be officially recognized as a campus organization.

Letting Creighton Climate Movement use the Creighton name would set a bad precedent for groups that don’t use appropriate campus procedures to gain recognition, Workman said.

“If we let one group, then it just snowballs,” she said. Galeski, a sustainability major, said his group now is going by the name “Climate Movement.” He said the letter surprised his group “given the fact that we had been acknowledged by the administration the entirety of last semester.”

Meetings with administrators produced no objection to the group name, Galeski said, until six days before the student vote.

Truempi, a senior economics major from Minnesota, said he hopes Hendrickson will go along with the will of the students. Truempi said: “I would like to believe that as a man of faith and goodwill, he is not opposed to the moral imperative of this ask.”

Photos: Our best shots of 2019 (so far)

Is flu season coming early this year? Reported cases raise prospect, state health officials say

A slow but steady trickle of Nebraskans testing positive for influenza in September and October is raising the prospect of an early influenza season this year, according to state health officials.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services sent a notice to health care providers Monday alerting them to the bug’s possible early arrival. While the numbers aren’t high, there is a slight uptick.

During the past two months, laboratories have reported between one and 24 positive influenza tests a week, with selected samples confirmed by more advanced testing. Typically, the state receives weekly reports in the single digits during those months, many of which turn out to be false positives.

That also means it’s time for those who haven’t done so already — those who’ve been holding off, those who’ve been too busy — to get their flu shots.

“While experts discourage predicting influenza trends,” state epidemiologist Dr. Tom Safranek wrote, “the numbers seen to date raise the prospect of an early influenza season and underscore the importance of an accelerated influenza vaccination campaign, especially in high-risk patients.”

Safranek also noted that the positive flu tests are accompanied by reports of increased levels of influenza-like illness from outpatient clinics and emergency rooms from multiple communities across the state.

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Health officials haven’t seen an uptick in flu-like illness in Douglas County, said Dr. Anne O’Keefe, senior epidemiologist in the Douglas County Health Department. But seeing one elsewhere in the state indicates something may be brewing.

O’Keefe seconded the call for residents to get their flu shots.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that Americans get vaccinated by the end of October. But health officials typically continue to recommend getting the shot as long as the virus is circulating. It takes about two weeks for a person to develop full immunity. Health officials also encourage people to seek protection before the holidays bring them — and their germs — together.

The CDC recommends the vaccine for most people over the age of 6 months.

In particular, O’Keefe stressed the importance of vaccination for pregnant women. Not only are they at higher risk of complications because their immune systems are down, she said, but antibodies also pass to their babies and help protect them for the first six months of life.

Other reasons to get the shot:

» While you might still get the flu, it will be less severe. That difference could be enough to keep you out of the doctor’s office, the hospital — or worse.

» The vaccines cover three or four strains of the influenza virus, so you’ll be protected if different strains arise during the season.

» Getting the shot helps protect those around you who are at higher risk or can’t get the shot, including the very young and the very old.

Photos: Fighting measles in Nebraska, Iowa through the years