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Monday, July 05, 2004

Newsday.com - Arrested Wal-Mart janitors stay in U.S. for now

Newsday.com - AP Regional
July 4, 2004, 4:43 PM EDT


NEWARK, N.J. -- Testimony needed from some illegal immigrants arrested in a sweep of Wal-Mart stores last year will keep them in the country for now, according to a published report.

Five Wal-Mart janitors who worked in New Jersey already have received permits that allow them to stay in the state, and four other immigrants have met with immigration officials and hope to receive the documents, said Gilberto Garcia, a lawyer for several workers.

He told The Sunday Star-Ledger of Newark that six other immigrants in San Antonio have the same expectations.

The New Jersey immigrants were among 250 people arrested in an Oct. 23 raid on 60 Wal-Mart stores in 21 states.

The nine immigrants have sued Wal-Mart in federal court, alleging the company conspired with contractors in a criminal enterprise that violated the civil rights and wage protections of immigrants who cleaned its stores.

Garcia told the newspaper that federal officials agreed not to work to deport the janitors after discussing their participation in a criminal investigation of the company.

Court documents in the immigrants' civil case show that Wal-Mart lawyers want interviews with the janitors, including those from New Jersey, who were arrested.

The one-year work permit has allowed former janitor Felipe Condado, of Tinton Falls, to work legally in the United States for the first time in four years.

"It's unbelievable," said Condado, 30, who is now washing dishes at a restaurant. "I didn't expect this."

Wal-Mart has said the lawsuit from the immigrants has no merit.

"The Wal-Mart culture is based on respect for other people, and we would never condone treating anyone poorly, legal or otherwise. We want to get to the bottom of this and are as eager as anyone to see whatever evidence federal officials might have," a spokeswoman said in November when the suit was filed.

The federal raids included Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

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