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Doors to two of Lincoln's popular Mexican restaurants, Mazatlan and El Toro, were locked Thursday evening, hours after a Homeland Security spokesman confirmed 22 arrests for alleged immigration violations.

Neither Homeland Security nor restaurant management in Lincoln confirmed any connection, but traffic on Lincoln's public safety radio system indicated there was a Homeland Security Investigations operation at Mazatlan, a restaurant just north of 70th and O streets owned by Abram Morales earlier Thursday. 

U.S. Department of Homeland Security investigators, along with Lancaster County Sheriff's deputies, arrested 22 people for what were termed unrelated, alleged administrative immigration violations in a criminal investigation at several places in Lincoln, the spokesman said.

In a statement, Homeland Security spokesman Shawn Neudauer said 21 men and one woman were arrested.

They were to be interviewed, charged accordingly and likely released later Thursday, after officials reviewed their criminal histories, the statement said. Individuals who have past serious criminal offenses may be held further.

Nineteen of those arrested come from Mexico, two men were from Honduras and one man hailed from Guatemala, the statement said.

Morales owns two other restaurants, Mazatlan II and Las Margaritas.

Calls to him and his restaurants rang unanswered Thursday afternoon, and the lights were not on at either Mazatlan or El Toro, at 2600 S. 48th St., Thursday evening.

Patrons waited outside both locations Thursday night, but were met by locked doors.

Managers and employees of Mazatlan II in northwest Lincoln and Las Margaritas in southwest Lincoln, both of which were open and serving customers Thursday evening, said there were no arrests made at their restaurants.

An employee at a business across the street from Las Margaritas, however, said a law enforcement vehicle was spotted at the restaurant earlier Thursday.

A statement from the sheriff's office said deputies assisted in the operation but do not actively enforce immigration law and referred further questions to Neudauer.

Homeland Security agents investigate criminal efforts to exploit America's travel, trade, financial and immigration systems, according to its website.

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On Twitter @LJSRileyJohnson.



Riley Johnson reports on breaking news and public safety issues in Lincoln and southeast Nebraska.

Newsroom intern

2018 fall semester intern at the Journal Star.

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