After the operation last weekend that saw 223 people questioned at 16 Phoenix-area carwashes, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement say that they will focus their efforts on investigating and punishing companies that hire undocumented immigrants.

ICE's investigation of the Danny's Family Carwash chain revealed that the company knowingly hired undocumented immigrants and, in some cases, helped them assume different identities.

Amber Carlige, the ICE spokesperson in Arizona, told Efe that the operation, one of the largest ever mounted against the hiring of undocumented foreigners, was focused on a criminal investigation and that 176 of the workers questioned were released.

ICE's current focus on employers is a change in strategy, given that in the past it was normal to see massive arrests of undocumented immigrants during raids.

In March 2011, ICE undertook an audit of Danny's Family Carwash and found that 942 of the 1,912 employment applications it reviewed contained "anomalies."

The company said at the time that all of the workers with suspect documents had been fired, but evidence presented by ICE indicates that shortly thereafter the firm began rehiring the same workers.

The federal government still has not filed charges against the owner of Danny's, prominent Arizona businessman Daniel Hendon, though 14 of his subordinates are facing criminal charges for hiring undocumented immigrants.

Despite the fact that ICE says it is focusing its efforts on the companies and not the undocumented workers, activists like Tania Unzueta, with the National Day Labor Organizing Network, have expressed concern about the effect these types of operations will have in the communities.

"We know that 30 people remain under arrest. ICE has classified them as 'criminals" only because in the past they were deported, and we believe that this isn't fair. These people should not be punished for wanting to be with their families," she told Efe. EFE