The Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has arrested 222 Worthington residents and moved several of them to facilities in other states, according to union, religious and community leaders who held a news conference Wednesday. In addition to Worthington, the ICE raids were conducted at Swift plants in Cactus, Texas; Grand Island, Nebraska; Greeley, Colorado; Hyrum, Utah; and Marshalltown, Iowa; resulting in more than 1,000 other arrests. All the facilities except Hyrum are unionized.
ICE said the raids are part of an investigation into people illegally selling false documents. But several members of the clergy, union leaders and others are condemning the actions.
"This is not about what is legal or not legal," said Francisco Segovia, director of Waite House in Minneapolis, who traveled to Worthington Wednesday to show support. "It's about the community that has suffered the consequences of a broken immigration system."
Those arrested were taken to detention facilities out of state, the ICE announced. Segovia said the community is reeling from the raids, which have left some children without one or both parents.
Residents "are still going through the shock of what they have seen," he said. Segovia reported meeting with a minister at a local church, where several families have sought refuge. Many people are afraid to leave their homes for fear of more arrests, he said.
In Washington, the United Food & Commercial Workers union issued another condemnation of the raids and said union representatives have been denied access to the workers.
"The display of force by ICE agents is totally outrageous," said Mark Lauritsen, International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing, and Manufacturing division of the UFCW. "We believe they are victims of wholesale violations of worker rights. In effect, ICE is criminalizing people for going to work."
UFCW local unions are working to contact family members to protect minor children, Lauritsen said, and is setting up support programs for the families.
"Worksite raids with armed agents are not the answer to the nationwide call for immigration reform," said Lauritsen. "America deserves a humane, systematic and comprehensive immigration policy immediately."
The Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network announced it is working with the Latino Communications Network and others to raise money to help the Worthington families.
The Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota reported that arrested workers who were taken to Iowa are being denied access to their lawyers. The Freedom Network is urging people to call U.S. Senators Norm Coleman and Mark Dayton and urge them to work with Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who is working on getting access.
Meatpacking plants raided; rights advocates urge phone calls