Four of the 23 are being kept in custody. The 19 others, including Dzeble and Drame, were released and will face hearings before an immigration judge and then possible deportation.
At a rally yesterday in front of PPA headquarters on Market Street near 31st, Ronald Blount, president of the Taxi Workers Alliance of Pennsylvania, said he has not been able to get the names of the four detained drivers from the PPA but hopes other drivers or family members can help the union identify them.
Dzeble, 47, and Drame, 42, who were at the rally, told reporters they are in this country without proper documentation.
Dzeble said that he overstayed a visitor's visa but that he married a U.S. citizen in 2008 and has been trying to apply for legal permanent residency. He now faces a court hearing Sept. 23, he said.
Drame said he came to this country in November 1995 on a business visa, then was ordered to go back to Mali for a year in 2006. He contended he was authorized to return here in 2007.
He and Dzeble said they didn't like the way ICE and the PPA tricked them into going to the PPA offices on Swanson Street near Ritner in South Philadelphia, where they were arrested. Dzeble showed reporters the June 23 letter he received from the PPA.
"It appears that you are owed money," the typed letter began in red ink. It said Dzeble had to go to the Swanson Street office at 8 a.m. June 30 to get his refund.
Twenty-six drivers showed up at the office that day and were handcuffed and interrogated. Out of those, 23 were arrested. The three drivers who were released and not arrested are U.S. citizens, Blount said.
Medvesky said the sting was conducted over concerns for public safety at the airport. Taxi drivers have access to different parking areas and can "generally go unnoticed," he said.
As he awaits his court hearing, Dzeble said he can still work as a cabbie. Marty O'Rourke, PPA spokesman, confirmed that the 19 released drivers can continue to work unless the PPA hears otherwise from federal officials.
Medvesky said the 23 arrested men are from: Ghana (two), Guinea (three), India (two), Ivory Coast (two), Liberia (one), Mali (six), Nigeria (one), Senegal (two), Sierra Leone (one), United Kingdom (one), Morocco (one) and Jamaica (one).