LINCOLN — Twenty-two people were detained Thursday in the capital city as part of a criminal investigation conducted by Homeland Security agents.
The y were detained for immigration violations unrelated to the criminal probe, according to Shawn Neudauer, a spokesperson for Homeland Security Investigations.
Neudauer declined to discuss the nature of the investigation but said most of those detained for immigration violations would most likely be released later Thursday pending further administrative proceedings unless they have convictions for serious past criminal offenses.
The raids, conducted with the help of the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, were carried out at multiple locations across Lincoln. Neudauer declined to identify the locations of the raids, but the Lincoln Journal Star reported that one happened at a Mexican restaurant just north of 70th and O Streets called Mazatlan.
When reached by phone, an employee of another restaurant under the same ownership, Las Margaritas, said she could not comment on what happened Thursday. No one answered the phone at Mazatlan or El Toro, another restaurant owned by the same family.
The ACLU of Nebraska, which called the raids “unnecessary,” also said the raids targeted restaurants in the city.
“The incarceration of these workers is yet another example of the Trump administration’s cruel war on immigrants, which continues to hurt families nationwide,” said Rose Godinez, legal and policy counsel at the ACLU. “We are disappointed that Lancaster County Sheriff Terry Wagner chose to divert local resources to facilitate this federal action targeting workers because that decision does not advance our shared public safety goals in our community.”
The 21 men and one woman detained were from Mexico (19), Honduras (2) and Guatemala (1).
Neudauer said the raids were similar to a much larger operation in O’Neill in August, when more than 130 people were detained, because both were spawned by a criminal probe, not an immigration enforcement action. Immigration and Customs Enforcement handles immigration enforcement.
In O’Neill, several members of the same family were charged with exploiting local workers for whom they arranged jobs. Neudauer would not say Thursday if a similar operation was uncovered in Lincoln.
World-Herald staff writer Joe Duggan contributed to this report.