Federal agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security led a raid Tuesday on Bollinger Shipyards’ main facility on Highway 308 in Lockport as part of an “ongoing federal criminal investigation” that appears to center on potential immigration law violations.
According to a spokesman with the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, 19 undocumented workers were administratively arrested at the site in the midday raid, which involved the use of a bus and a helicopter, and taken into custody for allegedly violating U.S. immigration laws.
“However, only five were ultimately detained and are currently in ICE custody in Louisiana,” ICE public affairs director Bryan Cox says in a written statement. “The remaining 14 were processed and released that same day after being placed into removal proceedings before the courts and/or enrolled in alternatives to detention.”
Cox says ICE was present for the raid as part of a “Homeland Security-led ongoing federal criminal investigation,” and that all further questions about the investigation should be referred to the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
The statement does not make clear whether the alleged immigration law violations are the sole focus of the investigation or if there are other components to the probe.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Orleans, citing U.S. Department of Justice policy, declined to comment.
Bollinger officials, in a statement, downplay the incident and say they are fully cooperating with authorities, noting the company has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
“Bollinger Shipyards is aware of actions taken by the Department of Homeland Security to look into the immigration status of a small number of workers at our Lockport facility,” says General Counsel Rachael Battaglia. “Bollinger strictly adheres to all local, state and federal employment laws, and is enrolled in and uses the federal government’s E-Verify system to confirm the immigration status of all workers. We are fully cooperating with the government as requested and have not been charged with any wrongdoing.”
Battaglia declines additional comment “out of respect for the investigation.”
Bollinger Shipyards is a maritime powerhouse on the Gulf Coast that employs between 1,500-2,000 workers and gets much of its business from federal contracts.
In 2015, Bollinger Shipyards’ longtime, second-generation leader, Boysie Bollinger, sold the company to nephew Ben Bordelon, now its president and CEO, and Galliano-based Edison-Chouest Offshore.
Like his uncle, Bordelon is a prominent GOP donor. A former LSU and NFL player, he and his wife were among the few guests to join the LSU Tigers on their visit to the White House to meet with President Trump in January, following the team’s national championship victory.