U.S. attorney, son of Egyptian immigrant, says his post reinforces
Bush appointee says he’ll fight illegal immigration, drug
trafficking and those who prey on children.
At dinner atop a Denver office tower recently, a visiting Jordanian
military chief who’d just been introduced to the new U.S. attorney,
Troy Eid, an Arab-American, approached Eid incredulously.
“How can that be?” Eid recalled the Jordanian asking. A man of
Arab descent couldn’t possibly be picked to represent U.S.
government interests, the Jordanian said. “It must be a token
post. … Are you wealthy?”
Appointed by President Bush, Eid responded with pride, he said:
“I’m not wealthy. I went to Wheat Ridge High School. That’s the
great thing about this country.
“If my background can show a few people what’s possible in this
country, that’s great,” Eid said.
Drug trafficking a focus
Today, Eid marks the formal start of his service after an ambitious
first six weeks on the job as the government’s top law enforcement
officer for Colorado. The only son of an Egyptian immigrant, Eid,
42, appears to be the the only Arab-American among the 94 U.S.
attorneys at a time when much of the world has questioned American
principles of equality.
And with enforcement of immigration law his top priority, Eid said
he’ll draw on this background and a longstanding “interest in the
underdog” to ensure fairness.
“Being fair is very important, telling people what your policy is
going to be,” he said. “You get into problems when you’re
The criminals he vows to prosecute most aggressively – deportees
who illegally re-enter the United States – often prey on immigrant
communities, he said.
And criminals from abroad often drive illegal drug trafficking, his
second major priority. Colorado has emerged as one of the busiest
drug distribution centers in the country, with transnational gangs
Taken together, immigration and drug-related crime now dominate
federal criminal prosecution in Colorado.
Other priorities for Eid: sexual exploitation of children using the
Internet and terrorism cases – the overall top priority of the
Justice Department under Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
“We get terrorism cases. We take them very seriously. They
typically come to us through the JTTF (the FBI-run Joint Terrorism
Task Force). … We have some investigations that have resulted in
charges and convictions.”
A symbolic investiture ceremony scheduled for this afternoon marks
the formal beginning for Eid, who on Aug. 11 replaced acting U.S.
Attorney William Leone. He had served since December 2004, when
John Suthers resigned to become Colorado attorney general after Ken
Salazar left that position for the U.S. Senate.
Eid previously worked as legal counsel to Gov. Bill Owens and as a
lawyer specializing in environmental and Indian affairs cases. He
grew up in Wheat Ridge and graduated from Stanford University and
the University of Chicago law school. His wife, Allison Eid,
because a Colorado Supreme Court justice in February. They have two
Always an American
Eid’s father, the late Edward Eid, fled from Egypt in 1957 after
military dictator Gamal Nasser took power. He started fresh in
America, working at a steel factory and as an accountant at a
candle factory. He dealt with discrimination along the way.
“My dad was typical of immigrants off the boat. … He would have
been offended if anyone focused on his roots. He came from a time
when you put your head down and assimilated as quickly as
possible,” Eid said in an interview Wednesday.
“I thought of myself as an American whose father was from
Diversifying the government’s legal workforce – only 18 of 94 U.S.
attorneys are women – also has loomed as a goal.
“I venture Eid is among the first Arab-Americans to hold such as
office,” said Nidal Ibrahim, executive director of the
“During an especially critical and sensitive time in our country’s
history, having an Arab-American serving as U.S. attorney for Colorado represents an important milestone.”
Matter of national security, officials say
Agents, who loaded the 120 rounded up at Buckley Air Force Base onto buses bound for the border, vow to hold contractors accountable.
Buckley Air Force Base – Black-clad federal immigration agents
surrounded a military housing construction site at sunrise
Wednesday and arrested 120 suspected illegal workers from Mexico
and Central America within a mile of top-secret global surveillance
and missile early-warning facilities.
This was a matter of national security, federal agents said,
because only a fence separated the unauthorized immigrants from a
crucial military listening post.
The immigration raid ranked among the biggest in state history.
Federal agents loaded most of the workers onto buses bound for the
U.S.-Mexico border for deportation, and they vowed to hold military
contractors who employed the workers accountable.
Previous immigration enforcement in this area ended after
deportations, but “we are taking a different approach now,” said
Jeff Copp, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement special agent
in charge of Denver district operations. “Instead of going in and
rounding up the workers and sending them home, we are actually
putting together an investigation to look at the culpability of the
company itself,” he said.
Military bases, oil refineries, chemical plants and other
“critical infrastructure” are top priorities because they are
“susceptible to terrorist action,” ICE regional spokesman Carl
Air Force officials on the Buckley base – in east Aurora beneath
giant white radar “golf balls” – blamed their contractor, Texas-
based Hunt Building Co., a leading provider of military housing
including facilities at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“It’s their responsibility to ensure their company abides by the
law,” said Staff Sgt. Aaron Cram, the base spokesman.
Bruce Jackson, Hunt’s superintendent on this $78 million, 353-unit
housing project, said he had no idea workers were illegal.
“Certainly not,” he said.
His office manager, Steph- anie Shuhayda, said Hunt had 24
subcontractors “from all over the United States.” The project,
which began in January 2005, was scheduled for completion
“sometime next year,” she said.
The raid sent hundreds of relatives of arrested workers scrambling
as impending deportations turned their lives upside down.
“I don’t know where they have him, don’t know what’s going to
happen,” said Maria Saucedo, 42, a mother of three from Mexico,
crying, speaking in Spanish from her minivan as she searched for
him at the work site.
Her husband lacked proper immigration papers because U.S.
citizenship officials “told him he had to go to Mexico for me to
petition for him,” Saucedo said, adding that the family moved to
Denver from Mexico because their ailing daughter needed first-rate
medical treatment to walk.
They count on his earnings for food and to make their mortgage
payment, Saucedo said.
“Why don’t immigration agents go to the streets and take
criminals? Why take the people who are working?” she said. “Why
didn’t they check for papers before they began this project?”
Spanish-speaking workers and subcontractors leaving the
construction site shook their heads at the disruption.
“This don’t make no sense. Now, you can see, there’s no work being
done,” said masonry subcontractor Abel Madera.
He had five workers who began work this week building walls, he
said. When he saw the federal agents move in, he quickly gave them
the day off, he said. “I called them, told them not to come
U.S. military officials “know a lot of illegal people don’t have
IDs,” Madera said, so they set up the construction project to give
workers access from Airport Road without having to pass through
Three people sentenced by a federal judge Monday for transporting
and harboring illegal immigrants were licensed farm-
labor contractors – an industry with little state or federal
State officials say they license about 15 labor contractors a year
to supply foreign workers to farms around Colorado.
Over the past 18 months, the Colorado Department of Labor and
Employment has received at least 10 complaints about labor brokers,
although it could not be determined whether current license holders
were targets of those complaints.
One complaint reviewed by The Denver Post through a records request
alleged an unlicensed contractor in southeastern Colorado brought
illegal workers to a farm and assaulted one of the workers.
U.S. District Judge Edward Nottingham on Monday sentenced Moises
and Maria Rodriguez of Hudson, about 30 miles northeast of Denver,
to 11 months in prison for harboring and transporting illegal
immigrants. They were credited with the 11 months they have already
served in jail and, because they aren’t U.S. citizens, face
deportation to Mexico.
Their son, Javier, was sentenced to three years’ probation, with
home detention for the first six months.
The parents were licensed as farm-labor contractors through the end
of last year, records show. Federal agents in 2004 raided the
Hudson compound where they housed illegal workers smuggled from
Prosecutors said Moises Rodriguez directed workers who contacted
him from Mexico, telling them where to meet smugglers, who guided
them across the U.S.-Mexico border. Rodriguez then picked up the
workers on the U.S. side of the border and with his son drove them
to Colorado. They worked the migrants 12 hours a day with no days
off and deducted “smuggling fees” from their pay.
Mistreatment of workers often stays hidden. Social workers who hear
of abuse and who file complaints say they are reluctant to speak
out for fear employers could retaliate against workers.
Some worker-advocacy groups are limited in handling cases involving
illegal immigrants because they receive government funding.
None of the complaints received over the past 18 months has been
investigated, state and federal labor officials acknowledged.
The problem: Colorado labor officials “don’t have the manpower”
to investigate labor suppliers, said Don Peitersen, director of the
division of employment and training in the state labor department.
So, state officials say, they forward all complaints to the U.S.
Department of Labor.
Yet record checks revealed that only one of the complaints had been
forwarded – the complaint received in July about the unlicensed
activity in southeastern Colorado.
Colorado’s farm-labor contractor-licensing system was designed to
help farm employers make sure workers they hire are legal and have
appropriate housing and transport.
Labor suppliers are required to have a federal and a state license
in Colorado. These authorize them to recruit foreign workers, house
them and drive them to and from worksites. Some licensees are only
allowed to do some of this.
Complaints that state labor officials receive often involve alleged
failure to pay workers money they’ve earned, unlicensed driving or
housing of workers, and substandard living conditions, said Larry
Gallegos, monitor advocate in the state labor department.
Two other recent complaints he received involved unlicensed
contractors who apparently brought illegal workers from Mexico to
two farms in southern Colorado. Gallegos said he plans to forward
these to federal authorities soon using a federal complaint form.
He recently met with federal labor officials asking how they prefer
to receive complaints forwarded from the state.
At the U.S. Department of Labor’s district headquarters, Alex
Salaiz, district director of the wage and hour division, fielded
the one complaint state officials sent his way.
“The conditions you describe will be looked into as soon as
possible,” he wrote back. “You should be aware that the
investigation may not be complete for some time.”
Child-labor matters and illegal firings take top federal priority,
Salaiz said. Complaints involving farmworkers will be considered,
he said, noting he has 21 investigators for a three-state area.
“We can’t react unless there’s a complaint,” he said. “… My
system is not broken. I can’t say about the state.”
AID FROM CITIZENS
The ACLU denounces the use of a website to report “suspicious” activity as an encouragement to spy.
Colorado counterterrorism officials used the 9/11 anniversary to
launch an Internet system that lets ordinary people electronically
report “suspicious activity” – ferreting out possible terrorist
bombers or plotters in their midst.
“One person can make a difference in thwarting terrorism,” State
Patrol Chief Mark Tostel said Monday in unveiling the system.
Civil-liberties leaders immediately denounced the move as deeply
The system lets anybody with Internet access send a report and
photos (via www.ciac.co.gov) documenting anything that strikes them
Officials said suspicious activity may include “unusual requests
for information,” “unusual interest in high-risk or symbolic
targets,” “unusual purchases or thefts,” “suspicious or
unattended packages,” “suspicious persons who appear out of
place” or people acquiring weapons, uniforms or fraudulent
A report sent through the system would ping the e-mail of a law
enforcement staffer at an intelligence relay station, the Colorado
Information Analysis Center, located in Centennial in a secure
building looped into federal computer networks.
Multi-agency teams in this “fusion” center, with access to
classified data, then would review the report, perhaps running
license-plate or other personal- data checks, and could notify the
About 300 tips about possible terrorism-related activity in
Colorado, fielded at the center over the past 18 months, were
deemed significant enough to forward to the FBI, state officials
said. The new electronic system is designed to increase the flow of
information that could be used to stop terrorism.
It’s unclear what happens to names, locations and other information
sent to the FBI. Everybody who sends in a tip will get a response,
Coloradans could abuse the system “to undermine their neighbors or
their enemies,” said State Patrol Sgt. Jack Cowart, a former Air
Force intelligence officer who manages the center. But that risk
already exists with the rise of phone-oriented systems that let
Coloradans report “road rage” and crime, Cowart said.
“This is just one more. … We need information from the public to
keep the public safe,” Cowart said.
A counterterrorism telephone hotline (720-852-6705) already draws
up to 20 tips a week to the fusion center. Surveillance crews
sometimes contact police dispatchers, who can send officers to
check out people or places, said State Patrol Capt. Brenda Leffler,
commander at the center.
“I hate it,” said Cathryn Hazouri, executive director of the
American Civil Liberties Union in Colorado. “This is encouraging
people to spy on one another.”
It moves modern America in the direction of communist societies of
the Soviet Union and China, “where people were encouraged to turn
in their family members, or their neighbors, if they believed those
people were not toeing the government line,” Hazouri said.
“Be careful. Be aware that you could ruin people’s reputations,
ruin their ability to go on an airplane,” Hazouri said. “There
are so many things that grow out of this kind of program.
“It’s almost as though they are trying to tell people that they
need to be afraid. Very afraid. Afraid of people they know, and
especially of people they don’t know.”
The Hudson couple have pleaded guilty to holding illegal laborers in a camp and skimming their pay.
Hudson – Leaning on her fence, retiree Ann Hoyt looked across at
the dilapidated white barracks and winced. She had no clue they had
held illegal Mexican workers who toiled on farms to pay smuggling
“Remember Auschwitz and the people in Germany saying, ‘We didn’t
know it was there’? Well, I didn’t know this was there, and it was
in my backyard,” said Hoyt, a retired microbiologist who raises
llamas half a mile away.
Today in federal court, Hudson residents Moises Rodriguez and his
wife, Maria, are scheduled to be sentenced for transporting and
harboring illegal immigrants in this case of migrants who were
smuggled into the country and then worked to the bone.
Foremen bused them from the barracks to farms where they picked
crops for 12 hours a day, seven days a week. Supervisors deducted
“smuggling fees” totaling $1,100 to $1,300 from the workers’
In October, when federal agents raided the fenced barracks compound
at Hudson, 30 miles northeast of Denver, they found automatic
weapons and cocaine in a trailer where a supervisor stayed, court
This is one of several recent cases around the country involving
smuggled foreign workers who labored under financial duress, owing
money to those who sneaked them into the United States.
Moises and Maria Rodriguez, who pleaded guilty in May, face up to
40 years in prison for their role in transporting and harboring
scores of illegal workers from Mexico, then deducting fees from
their pay. Prosecutors say they supplied workers to agricultural
employers around northern Colorado, including the state’s largest
organic vegetable farm.
Their son, Javier Rodriguez, who lived in a trailer by the
barracks, has agreed in a plea deal to share what he knows about
smuggling, employment of illegal workers, drug trafficking, violent
crime and gun dealing in return for leniency in sentencing.
Farm owners who used the illegal workers were not charged.
Attorney Jeff Edelman, representing Javier Rodriguez, said
employers are key players who ought to be targeted.
For the workers, “it’s sort of an indentured servitude you can
never get out from under,” Edelman said. “You ought to get the
big shots. It’s against the law to hire illegal aliens
At Grant Family Farms, a large organic grower where Moises
Rodriguez sent workers, owner Andy Grant said he has championed
worker rights and pays at least $7.25 an hour.
“The whole thing about the smuggling, I have no knowledge of it,
and as far as the housing, I don’t know where people live. We offer
jobs,” Grant said.
Grant questioned federal priorities in targeting farms rather than
other sectors of the economy that rely heavily on illegal workers.
“What’s going to happen is, agriculture is going to be driven out
of the United States to Mexico,” he said.
Among other U.S. cases involving indebted foreign workers:
FBI and immigration agents just arrested 31 Koreans accused of
running a trafficking ring that placed smuggled women at spas and
brothels across the northeastern states.
Federal prosecutors in Seattle charged nine Koreans for their
alleged role in an operation that smuggled women from Asia, often
across the U.S.-Canada border, and put them to work as prostitutes
in spas nationwide.
A Colorado court on Thursday sentenced Saudi Arabian immigrant
Homaidan Al-Turki to 28 years to life in prison on charges of false
imprisonment and unlawful sexual contact involving an illegal
worker from Indonesia kept as a virtual slave. Federal charges are
And federal immigration agents in Colorado are investigating
several other cases involving smuggled foreign workers, said Jeff
Copp, special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement’s Denver district.
As in most of these cases, the Mexican men and women smuggled to
Hudson apparently came willingly, agreeing to work and live at the
barracks until free from their debts to smugglers.
First, the workers in Mexico telephoned Moises Rodriguez, court
records show. He directed them to hotels at Palomas and Agua Prieta
on the Mexico side of the border, where they met “coyote” guides
who led them on multi-day treks across dry open land near Douglas,
Then, after receiving cellphone calls from the guides on the U.S.
side of the border, Rodriguez picked up the workers and drove them
via Phoenix to Hudson, the records show.
Some Hudson townspeople never knew. But a few sensed an ugly
Construction worker Loren Winstead recalled delivering surplus food
from a supermarket to the barracks. “They would surround my truck
and help unload it,” he said. “I didn’t think they were abused.
But people took advantage of them.”
Others cringed at hearing regular automatic weapons fire from
inside the compound, Hudson Mayor Neal Pontius said. Town leaders
repeatedly complained to Weld County authorities, he said. “People
didn’t like going to our town park in the evenings because you
didn’t know if a stray bullet would come your way.”
Deporting the smuggled workers, as federal authorities have done,
and jailing members of the Rodriguez family won’t make much
difference in the overall immigration conundrum, Pontius said.
“There will be another person who takes their place in a
heartbeat. It’s a never-ending cycle.”