HIGHLAND — Federal immigration officials arrested eight people Tuesday at a construction site at the Hampton in Highland Apartments, though they were initially targeting only one individual, a spokesman said.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations agent, who was working as part of the U.S. Marshals Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, located and arrested the individual, ICE spokesman Shawn Neudauer said.
The individual — who was arrested on allegations of failing to register as a sex offender — "was encountered with seven other persons," ICE said. Those seven people were arrested for immigration violations.
Of the eight, one has since been released because he was already in deportation proceedings, according to ICE. The others remain in custody pending disposition of their cases, Neudauer said.
The arrests occurred about 12:30 p.m. near 44th Street and Prairie Avenue in Highland during a construction crew's lunch break, according to Maria Morales, who lives in the neighborhood.
Morales said she and her husband took photographs as they watched the roundup unfold about 12:30 p.m. Tuesday. About 30 minutes to an hour before that, her husband noticed several vehicles with tinted windows parked nearby, she said.
“When we saw the trucks, we were thinking something is going on, maybe FBI or something, because they didn’t have any names on the trucks. The windows (were tinted),” she said.
Several workers were sitting in the grass eating lunch when they were encountered by the federal agents, she said. Most, but not all, were arrested, she said.
"From the window, I could see them eating and then they started the body searches, taking everything out of their pockets. They were placed in handcuffs one by one," she said.
Morales said she “feels bad” for the workers who were not the target of ICE that day but were picked up anyway and face deportation.
"When I saw them, I thought, 'Why are they coming to look for these working people?' Trump said he was only going to report the people with criminal records, and stuff like that. Well, these people are working so hard for their money. And then we find out they were looking for only one person," Morales said.