Prostitution May Lead to Deportation 

Homeland Security and ICE were reportedly involved in the arrest of two Chinese women who worked as masseuses. (Photo by Peter Chu via World Journal)

If you think investigating massage parlors that provide sex services is a case only for local police, you are wrong. It seems the Department of Homeland Security and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are also interested in such cases now. A recent investigation of two Chinese masseuses who were suspected to be doubling as prostitutes in Suffolk, Long Island, had both  Homeland Security and ICE involved. Immigration attorneys warn that in the future, sex workers may not be charged with a misdemeanor and then released as they are now. Rather, they may be put in immigration detention and face deportation. 

The police in East Islip, in Suffolk County, said the massage parlor located at 10 East Main St. with a sign that said “VaporMax” was reported by nearby residents for providing illegal sex services. Homeland Security and ICE were involved in the investigation. Law enforcement arrested 30-year-old Lili He and 35-year-old Yuan Zhuang at 5 p.m. on March 9. They were both charged with prostitution. And the massage parlor was also shut down by the fire department on the same day for multiple violations. 

The fire department closed Vapor Max following the arrests of the two employees. (Photo by Peter Chu via World Journal)

Damon Aiello, who runs the meat shop next door, said on March 10 that he saw many firefighters and police raiding the massage parlor a day before. But he didn’t see any ICE officers. “The owners of the massage parlor were a Chinese couple. The two who were arrested were their employees,” said Aiello. He said the massage parlor opened last November and had been enjoying good business. It had many male clients coming in and out, so the residents suspected it may provide sex services.

East Islip police said on March 10 that the two women arrested are not undocumented immigrants, the local police didn’t work together with the federal agencies, and it was not clear whether ICE was investigating the two women’s immigration status or something related to human trafficking. 

It happens more and more often that the immigration law enforcement is involved in investigations against illegal massage parlors and focus on the immigration status of those who are arrested. Since January, Homeland Security has participated in raids that led to the arrests of 25 Asian prostitutes. 

There were a dozen or so such cases nationwide last month. Among those arrested was a 53-year-old Korean masseuse with an address in Flushing who was arrested last month in Texas. She is in immigration detention now. Two other Korean women from Flushing were arrested in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. They were detained for 48 hours, waiting for ICE to take them. Last year five Chinese women were arrested in Macomb, Michigan, for prostitution. Two of them have been deported. One 50-year-old is awaiting deportation after pleading guilty. 

Mingli Chen, an attorney at ML and CHEN, P.C., said ICE rarely participated in the raids of illegal massage parlors before. If Homeland Security or ICE is involved, one can bet that the immigration status of those who are arrested will be checked. Undocumented immigrants or those who have a deportation order will be taken away by ICE after judicial proceedings are complete. Chen said if the attorneys of the accused can successfully get the charges dismissed, they will not necessarily be deported. But one thing is sure: There will be more and more cases in which ICE will be involved with local law enforcement.

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