Dairy farmers claim not guilty of harboring undocumented immigrants

A husband and wife dairy farmer team has pleaded not guilty to charges of harboring and hiring undocumented immigrants to work on their properties in the counties of Huron and Tuscola. Denis Burke, aged 53, and Madeline Burke, 50, own the Thumb’s Dunganstown Dairy and Parisville Dairy. They entered pleas of not guilty in federal court on Friday 23 September, according to their attorney, Daniel J. Vaccaro.

In an email to news organization MLive, Vaccaro said that the dairies have always complied with legal requirements in good faith. With regard to the hiring of workers, the Burkes and their operations deny all charges and stand by their not guilty pleas.

The indictment was announced by US Attorney, Barbara McQuade, together with the special agent in charge, Marlon Mirror, from the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Monday 19 September. The indictment claims that starting in 2007 and continuing through to the middle of 2013, the Burkes conspired to conceal, harbor, shield and transport undocumented immigrants to use their services for their own financial gain.

The indictment also alleges that the Burkes failed to conduct the inquiries necessary by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement requirements to determine whether their workers were eligible to work in the US. The release claims that many of the undocumented workers were hired several times by the Burkes, using different Social Security numbers and names.