MEMPHIS, Tenn. —The Tennessee Highway Patrol said Tuesday that 20 people had been arrested and accused of presenting fraudulent identification documents in an attempt to become employed at Expeditors International in Memphis.
The men and women who were arrested at the Hickory Hill warehouse Tuesday morning were charged with forgery and criminal simulation.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol says that the suspects forged documents to land jobs with a temp agency that contracts with Expeditors International.
THP's Criminal Investigative Division reports that the suspects used fake permanent resident cars, social security cards and fake Tennessee driver's licenses to try and gain employment.
Many people have been calling this an immigration raid, but just to be clear - ICE was not involved in this.
The arrests have raised questions for immigrant advocate Mauricio Calvo with Latino Memphis.
"It's a reality that immigrants have to find documentation to work. It's ironic that working is a crime," said Calvo.
"Did they have a warrant for each one of those individuals or were they just randomly picking people by the way they look? Again, I don't know how you determine that 19 people in a given place have false documentation," said Calvo.
Authorities say identity fraud is not a victimless crime.
"Identity theft has become a huge problem across the country," said THP Colonel Tracy Trott. "The Tennessee Highway Patrol has dedicated a unit to investigate these types of fraudulent crimes in Tennessee."
"It actually breaks down on the background process for people to do background checks, because who's working them is not who they think they are," said Chris Richardson with the Tennessee Highway Patrol.
A THP spokesperson said none of the charges against the 20 accused are immigration related at this point, but they do have a message.
"If this happens here at this place, think of all the other places it could happen at," said Richardson.
Expeditors issued a statement saying that those arrested were employees of a third-party, temporary service provider to the company and that the company had cooperated with the agency.
"Expeditors is committed to complying with all applicable laws and cooperated fully with the arresting officials."
This is an ongoing investigation. We will update this story as more information becomes available.