El Vaquero

During a lunch hour that would normally be busy, there is an empty lot in front of El Vaquero's following Wednesday's federal raid.

First reported by The Oklahoman, the federal raid that included two Stillwater Mexican restaurants has resulted in the charge that Hector Flores-Contreras conspired to harbor undocumented workers. Hector Flores-Contreras was an assistant manager at El Vaquero. Between El Vaquero and Palomino’s, the other restaurant that was raided, authorities temporarily detained about 14 people they allege were in the country illegally. Other charges for co-conspirators are expected, according to the report.

According to multiple media outlets, in the affidavit among the court records, Hector Flores-Contreras told authorities he used undocumented labor because they were “harder workers,” and it is alleged he would get kickbacks on tips for helping locate their family members to the U.S.

It was also alleged that Flores-Contreras had these employees working up to 60 hours per week.

Shortly after the raid, local law enforcement told the News Press the investigation was a combination of “immigration and criminal.” The U.S. Attorneys office at that time told the News Press that it was not expected the majority of the undocumented workers would remain in custody by that evening.

Speculation was being fueled by social media that the raid was part of a “roundup of illegal aliens." The next day, the Stillwater Police Department put out a statement saying this was not the case.

 "The HSI search warrant service resulted in several undocumented immigrant adults being detained and brought to the Stillwater Police Department. HSI returned the majority of those individuals to the location where they were contacted, within a few hours. Those who were not released were taken into custody by HSI for federal violations.

HSI is a department within ICE (which falls under the umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security), but differs from the agency's Enforcement and Removal Operations, which often is associated with the kind of raids on undocumented workers seen in national news.

Capt. Kyle Gibbs wrote that SPD “regularly contacts undocumented immigrants in our community We do not treat these community members any differently than we do any other citizen. Undocumented immigrants who are victims are provided the same level of service and afforded the same resources as any other community member.

"Misinformation posted on social media could result in undocumented members of our community being hesitant to call the police when they need help or assistance.”

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