Meatpacking plants raided; rights advocates urge phone calls
By Workday staff 12 December 2006
|WORTHINGTON - Immigration authorities have detained an undisclosed number of workers at Swift meatpacking plants in Worthington, Minn., and five other states, prompting the United Food & Commercial Workers to seek a federal injunction to stop the raids. Immigrant rights advocates have launched a call-in campaign to Congress.
|"Essentially, the agents stormed the plants, many of them in riot gear, in an effort designed to terrorize the workforce," said Mark Lauritsen, director of the UFCW Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing division.
"This kind of action is totally uncalled for," said Lauritsen. "It's designed to punish workers for working hard everyday, contributing to the success of their companies and communities. They are innocent victims in an immigration system that has been hijacked by corporations for the purpose of importing an exploitable workforce."
The UFCW represents workers at the Swift and Company plants, as well as other major packers around the country.
The raids are being conducted by Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents at Swift plants in Worthington, Minn.; Cactus, Texas; Grand Island, Nebraska; Greeley, Colorado; Hyrum, Utah; and Marshalltown, Iowa. All the facilities except Hyrum are unionized. Operations at the facilities have been temporarily suspended, the company announced.
Reports to the Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network from Worthington describe a highly charged, emotional scene.
"UFCW representatives report that there are ten ICE buses, estimated to fit 400-500 people, at the Swift meatpacking plant waiting to take people away," Alondra Espejel reported in an e-mail to network activists.
"According to Mike Potter, UFCW President in Worthington, 'children are crying, families are crying, I have no words to describe how this is tearing our community apart.'"
Immigration lawyers Susana DeLeon and Bruce Nestor told the Freedom Network that people are being detained on the basis of where they work and their skin color – not on individual suspicions – and both immigrant workers and permanent residents are among those taken away.
"We are advising all the detained workers to exercise their right to an attorney and remain silent until they confer with counsel," UFCW Director Lauritsen said. "These actions today by ICE are an affront to decency."
ICE said the raids are part of an investigation into people illegally selling false documents. Swift issued a statement saying the raids violate a 10-year-old agreement between the company and federal government under which the company said it has "played by the rules" to comply with immigration laws.
The Freedom Network is urging people to call or e-mail U.S. Senators Norm Coleman and Mark Dayton and ICE officials to protest the raids and demand an immediate moratorium on deportations.
Senator Mark Dayton, 612-727-5220, 202-224-3244
Email form http://dayton.senate.gov/contact/email.cfm
Senator Norm Coleman, 651-645-0323, 202-224-5641
Email form http://coleman.senate.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=Contact.ContactForm
ICE's Field Director Mark Congemi, 952-853-2681