Seventy of the 86 suspected illegal immigrants arrested Tuesday in a raid on a Kent County nursery will be voluntarily deported today, according to the Baltimore director of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, who yesterday defended the conduct of his agents during the operation.
The 70 Mexican citizens will be flown on a government charter, due to leave Baltimore-Washington International Airport about 1 p.m., to Harlingen, Texas, where they will board a bus and be transported across the border, said Benedict J. Ferro, head of the INS office in Baltimore. The remainder of the suspected illegal immigrants are still being processed.
Ferro also defended the conduct of his agents, who raided Angelica Nurseries Inc. in Kennedyville. In an article in yesterday's editions of The Sun, nursery owner LeVerne Kohl compared the raid to the 1993 raid by federal agents at the compound of the Branch Davidian sect in Waco, Texas.
Kohl said that the day before the raid, planes and helicopters flew over his 2,000-acre nursery. After federal agents served their search warrants, his telephone service was shut off for hours, he said.
In addition, some of the workers who were detained said they were addressed harshly by agents, and were handcuffed and not allowed to move for three hours, even to go to the bathroom.
Ferro strongly disputed the comparison of Tuesday's raid to the Waco incident. "Normally we would ignore that kind of inflammatory statement but it's so outrageous, I think it's important we respond," he said. "This office does not have aircraft, nor did we use aircraft the day before, and we have never utilized interrupting telephone service for an operation like this."
Kohl said yesterday that he had assumed that the aircraft flying over his nursery Monday were somehow linked to the raid that came the next day. "I have nothing to base that on, just the connection, the timing," he said. As for the interruption in his telephone service, "It seems rather coincidental that five telephone lines here would go out immediately after a search warrant was served here, when we haven't had that happen in years."
Ferro also said that his agents did not mistreat the nursery employees. "These agents that carried out this operation are among the best-trained and most professional in the country," he said.
Pub Date: 9/20/96