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Nine roofers arrested by immigration agents in Hiawatha

Nine roofers were arrested while they were working on a house at 880 Wolf Ridge Rd. in Hiawatha this morning, Wednesday,
Nine roofers were arrested while they were working on a house at 880 Wolf Ridge Rd. in Hiawatha this morning, Wednesday, April 27, 2011. (Jeff Raasch/The Gazette)

Nine roofers were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents while they were in the middle of a job Wednesday morning in Hiawatha.

The workers were taken into custody around 8 a.m. after they had removed about 80 percent of the shingles from a house at 880 Wolf Ridge Rd. ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer confirmed the arrests but said he could not release further details due to the ongoing investigation.

All of the workers who were arrested were employees of a sub-contractor for Eastern Iowa Construction, according to EIC President Jeremy Bleeker. They could not produce the proper paperwork when they were confronted, he said.

Bleeker said he is still gathering details, but has been told that all the workers have the proper documentation at their residences. He declined to identify the Iowa City-based sub-contractor.

"We have no right to that paperwork, because we don't employ them," Bleeker said. "It says right in the handbook that we're not even allowed to ask for that information."

Bleeker said his business went through an ICE audit about nine months ago and came away with a clean record. He said the events of Wednesday morning "came way out of the blue."

"Either (the ICE agents) know something we don't know, or they're crossing over into really dangerous ground," Bleeker said.

Workers from other crews would be reassigned to complete the job on Wolf Ridge Road, Bleeker said. He said the sub-contractor has been unable to contact the workers to deliver their paperwork to them, and does not know where they were taken.

He said some of his employees get discriminated against because of their nationality, but have been citizens for several years."I hope we don't jump to judgment too quickly here," Bleeker said.

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