Friday, December 29, 2006

INB 12/29/06: Chicago Activists Harassed, Kids Protest in DC

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 45 - December 29, 2006

1. Chicago Activists Harassed
2. Kids Protest in DC
3. RICO Lawsuit Targets Swift

Immigration News Briefs is a supplement to Weekly News Update on the Americas, published by Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012; tel 212-674-9499; INB is also distributed free via email; contact for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe. Immigration News Briefs is archived at


On Dec. 15, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested Mexican immigrant Martin Barrios on an outstanding deportation order at his home in the Chicago suburb of Berwyn, Illinois. A spokesperson from Centro Sin Fronteras, a Chicago-based immigrant rights group, said Barrios was arrested around 6:30 am while still in his pajamas, in front of his US citizen wife and their three US-born children. Barrios has lived in the US for 18 years; he was ordered deported after a legal representative improperly filed an application to adjust his status.

Barrios went public with his story last April, granting an interview to the Chicago Sun-Times. At the time, he was hopeful about a bill sponsored by US Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Chicago) that would have allowed him and 35 other Illinois residents with "mixed status" families to remain in the US. That bill has not passed. Barrios' wife, Araceli Barrios, declined comment on Dec. 18, noting that her husband lost his job after the Sun-Times interview came out.

ICE spokesperson Gail Montenegro said Martin Barrios has "exhausted all opportunities for appeals," but was being held at Dodge County Detention Facility in Juneau, Wisconsin, pending a last-minute request from Chicago's Mexican Consulate to review his legal records for any basis for a final appeal. "From our standpoint, he's here in defiance of an outstanding deportation order," she said. [Chicago Sun-Times 12/19/06, 12/21/06]

In a Dec. 27 press release, Centro Sin Fronteras said it fears that ICE may also be planning to arrest Elvira Arellano, an activist who has been resisting deportation from the sanctuary of the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood since Aug. 15 [see INB 8/19/06]. According to church pastor Rev. Walter Coleman, neighborhood residents saw US Marshals taking photos on the night of Dec. 26, "behind the church in the alley and across the street in front of the church." "I can only assume that the photos are part of routine to execute a warrant to enter the church building in pursuit of a fugitive," Coleman said. "Evidently ICE is continuing its pattern of end-of-year high-profile raids," said Coleman, referring to the agency's Dec. 12 arrests of 1,282 workers at Swift & Co. meatpacking plants in six states [see INB 12/15/06].

Centro Sin Fronteras issued a "red alert" on Dec. 27, calling on supporters to continue pressuring federal officials to declare a moratorium on raids and deportations until immigration reform legislation is passed. [Chicago Sun-Times 12/27/06; AP 12/29/06] Church members said they would resume a 24-hour vigil that includes prayer and standing watch at windows and doors and from the rooftop. The church's glass doors are kept chained and covered with heavy curtains. Coleman said church members wouldn't resist in the event of a raid. "We are going to pray; that is the only weapon we have," he said.

Mark Gregoline, deputy US marshal for northern Illinois, said on Dec. 27 that his agency is not involved in the case. ICE spokesperson Carl Rusnok denied that ICE was involved in any surveillance at the site. [AP 12/29/06]


About 30 activists from Chicago, including 15 US citizen children whose parents are facing deportation or have already been deported, arrived in Washington by bus on Dec. 21 to urge President George W. Bush to declare a moratorium on raids and deportations until Congress approves an immigration reform plan. The protest also drew attention to the situation of hundreds of children whose parents were among workers detained in the Dec. 12 ICE raids at Swift meatpacking plants.

The activists from Chicago's Adalberto United Methodist Church, Centro Sin Fronteras and other organizations held a noon press conference and prayers at the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill, then walked to the White House for a three-hour prayer vigil, bearing signs of protest, symbols of Christmas and an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The kids chanted: "Born in the USA, don't send my mommy and my daddy away."

The protesters asked Bush to stay the deportation of Chicago activist Martin Barrios, scheduled for Dec. 22. Among the children who spoke to reporters were Barrios' two youngest children, as well as Saul "Saulito" Arellano, the eight-year-old son of Elvira Arellano, who is living with her in sanctuary at the church and has become a spokesperson for the movement to stop the deportations. [United Methodist Reporter 12/21/06; Notimex 12/21/06]


On Dec. 15, a group of 18 former employees at Swift & Co. filed a $23 million lawsuit charging the company with conspiring to keep wages down by hiring undocumented workers. The plaintiffs are all naturalized US citizens or legal residents of Latin American origin who worked at the Swift plant in Cactus, Texas. [EFE 12/21/06] The lawsuit uses the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) in charging Swift with engaging in a racketeering conspiracy to manipulate commerce. "When the Swift plant opened in Cactus, wages were approximately $20 an hour," plaintiffs' attorney Michael Heygood told reporters in Texas. "Now, the average wage is approximately $12 to $13 an hour." [Washington Times 12/19/06] Several union officials said Swift began improving its wages, benefits and bonuses in the weeks before the raids. "They're trying to staff up their plants and they've been raising their wages the past few weeks," said United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) spokesperson Jill Cashen. [AP 12/19/06]


Contributions toward Immigration News Briefs are gladly accepted: they should be made payable and sent to Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012. (Tax-deductible contributions of $50 or more may be made payable to the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute and earmarked for "NSN".)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

INB 12/21/06: Krome Detainees Protest

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 44 - December 21, 2006

1. Krome Detainees Protest
2. US and Canada Deport 99 Africans
3. Maine Activist's Home Raided
4. Swift Raids Protested

Immigration News Briefs is a supplement to Weekly News Update on the Americas, published by Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012; tel 212-674-9499; INB is also distributed free via email; contact for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe. Immigration News Briefs is archived at


On Dec. 8, Haitian and Jamaican detainees at Krome Service Processing Center outside Miami in Dade County, Florida, refused to leave their dormitory to protest delays in obtaining travel papers from their consulates, immigration officials said; these delays have delayed their stay in detention awaiting deportation. The protest led Michael Rozos, field office director for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Florida office of detention and removal, to visit the Krome dormitory and speak to the detainees there on Dec. 8, accompanied by a "disturbance control team," said ICE spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez. She said team members were "dressed appropriately."

While the detainees were frustrated at the delay in travel papers, some also talked about "the amount of people at Krome," Gonzalez said. A Haitian detainee attributed the tense atmosphere to crowded conditions. "There are just too many people here right now," he said. "We all are just desperate to get out." Krome's publicly-stated capacity of about 580 detainees has been exceeded for months. Gonzalez admitted on Dec. 14 that the number of detainees at Krome was 927. Gonzalez said 120 detainees would be transferred elsewhere on Dec. 19 and 50 others would be deported soon.

In late September, dozens of detainees signed a letter to the Miami Herald complaining about conditions at Krome. Another 255 detainees complained in a November letter that overcrowding at the facility is "causing a lot of tension that leads to confrontations, unsanitary dorm, showers, and clogged toilets...."

Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center (FIAC) executive director Cheryl Little said Krome "is becoming more and more overcrowded. It's getting dirty inside, and people are getting ill because of it." Little said one of her lawyers went to Krome Dec. 8 and was told by a guard that there was a "riot " and that the facility was in "lockdown." Little said the lawyer "was told that he couldn't go in, and that he better check before coming over the weekend because it might still be in lockdown." Gonzalez said there was no lockdown, and visiting hours were normal over the weekend of Dec. 9.

Ralph Latortue, the Haitian consul in Miami, went to Krome Dec. 13 for an annual holiday visit with Haitian detainees. Latortue told the Miami Herald that 60 of the 83 Haitians at Krome complained of mistreatment, lack of medical attention and overcrowding. He said some detainees, particularly those with criminal records, complained about delays in travel documents. Under current Haitian government regulations, Latortue said, authorities in Port-au-Prince must pre-approve the return of Haitians with criminal records, and the process can take months. Latortue said 75% of the 83 Haitians at Krome have criminal records.

Latortue said that during his meeting at Krome, some of the Haitian detainees told him about an incident on Dec. 8 that involved an "altercation with guards." At least two detainees who were witnesses told a FIAC lawyer that a guard pushed and "punched" a detainee, as other agitated detainees watched, according to Little. A worker at the facility who asked not to be identified said guards interrupted some immigration court proceedings during the episode.

ICE spokesperson Gonzalez said the dormitory protest was peaceful, with Haitian and Jamaican detainees refusing to leave their pod or dormitory to take meals. But Gonzalez acknowledged that an allegation was later made "against a guard." She had no details. "We take all allegations very seriously and it will be thoroughly investigated and appropriate action will be taken," Gonzalez said.

Jamaican consul Ricardo Allicock visited Krome on Dec. 11 to meet with the more than 50 Jamaican detainees there. Allicock said many of the detainees were frustrated that they would not spend the holidays with their families back home because they have yet to be deported. The majority of the Jamaicans there have been waiting less than two months to be deported, he said. (Miami Herald 12/16/06)


Over the weekend of Dec. 16, ICE officers returned to the US after deporting 82 Nigerians and 17 Liberians on a joint charter removal flight conducted with the government of Canada. It was the largest US deportation flight to Africa in two years. The flight used chartered commercial aircraft and was staffed by officers of the ICE Office of Detention and Removal Operations. Eight of the Nigerians were deportees from Canada; escorting officers from Canada accompanied the flight. The others deported on the flight had been housed at detention facilities across the US; they were brought to the Batavia Federal Detention Facility near Buffalo, New York, shortly before the flight. More than 60 of the deportees had criminal records. (ICE News Release 12/19/06)


On Dec. 14, more than a dozen ICE agents raided the home of longtime immigrant advocate Ben Guiliani in South Portland, Maine. The agents were seen carting out numerous boxes of evidence and computer equipment, according to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network. A friend and fellow activist said agents also showed up at Guiliani's office elsewhere in the city. Guiliani said he was out of state when the agents showed up at his house, but that family members were home. Nobody has been charged or arrested, he said. The immigration agency notified South Portland police of the operation shortly after 9 am, but did not provide specifics of the investigation, said Police Chief Ed Googins.

A US citizen of Mexican descent, Guiliani has headed the Maine Migrant Workers Advocacy Group and has involved in workplace lawsuits against Wal-Mart and the former DeCoster egg farm, alleging bias and discrimination against Latino workers. He helped win major improvements in working and living conditions at DeCoster. He currently heads a firm called Azteca Consulting Associates Inc., which is involved in a variety of government and business matters, including import and export, Hispanic relations, labor search management and safety consulting, according to incorporation records. (Portland Herald (ME) 12/15/06)


On Dec. 14, dozens of activists in Des Moines, Iowa took part in a rally protesting the arrests by ICE of some 90 immigrants at the Swift plant in Marshalltown, Iowa. The Marshalltown raid was one of six such raids on Dec. 12; in all, ICE agents arrested 1,282 workers at Swift & Co. meatpacking plants in six states, claiming the sweeps were part of an investigation into identity theft [see INB 12/15/06]. ( 12/15/06) On Dec. 17, clergy members spoke out at an evening service in Des Moines called to protest the raids. About 200 people came to Grace United Methodist Church to hold candles and pray in solidarity with detainees and their families. The "Making Room at the Inn" event included multilingual speeches, prayers and hymns. "Jesus was not mindful of Social Security numbers, or countries of origin, or of native languages," said the Rev. Barbara Dinnen of the Las Americas Comunidad de Fe of the United Methodist Church. (Des Moines Register 12/18/06)

In a letter to President George W. Bush on Dec. 20, Iowa governor Tom Vilsack complained that ICE officials were not responding to family members' inquiries about loved ones detained in the Swift raids. "To this day, the whereabouts of some of these people are still unknown," Vilsack wrote. "Considering the hardship this has on their families, silence as to their condition is not acceptable." Vilsack urged Bush to also disclose the identities and locations of the detainees to community leaders and faith-based leaders in the six states "so officials can better address the needs of family members left behind." Vilsack referred to a morning news conference on Dec. 20 in which Bush called for immigration reform, saying that "such changes... will come too late for the families with children who are searching for their parents today." ICE spokesperson Jamie Zuieback responded that privacy concerns prevent immigration officials from publishing the names of detainees, but they will work with Vilsack "on matters of specific concern." (Des Moines Register 12/21/06) A day earlier, Dec. 19, Vilsack and Maj. Gen. Ron Dardis, the top officer of the Iowa National Guard, wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, calling ICE's actions in the raids "completely unacceptable," saying agents undermined the public's trust in government, potentially jeopardized the safety of law enforcement personnel in Iowa and could have compromised undercover operations. Vilsack and Dardis said they will not cooperate with federal immigration officials in the future unless they act more responsibly and provide better coordination with state officials. (Des Moines Register 12/20/06)

On Dec. 15 in Colorado, immigrant rights advocates gathered in Greeley, Durango, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Grand Junction and other communities to hold candlelight vigils and join hands to support the families separated by the raids and protest the treatment of the 260 workers arrested in the Dec. 12 raid at the Swift plant in Greeley. "This tragedy is not about 'identity theft' or 'criminal activity' as...ICE contends," wrote the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition in a press release announcing the vigils. "It is about women and men working to feed their families and provide for a better life." (Denver Daily News 12/19/06; Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition Press Release 12/14/06) On the evening of Dec. 18, a crowd of 75-100 people from across the region gathered at the office of El Comite de Longmont in Longmont to protest the raids. The group lit candles and marched down Main Street before rallying on the steps of the Longmont Safety and Justice Center. Many carried signs that read, "No human is illegal." Others spoke of a basic human right of people to try to improve their life and that of their family, regardless of borders. (Greeley Tribune 12/19/06)

In San Antonio, Texas on Dec. 21, Latino activist groups held a news conference to condemn the raids and call for an end to such worksite enforcement until Congress can come up with comprehensive immigration reform. (San Antonio Express-News 12/21/06)

On Dec. 15, over 200 people picketed outside the ICE offices in Chicago to protest the raids. The protest was initiated by the March 10th Movement, and members of the Centro Sin Fronteras, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Mexico Solidarity Network and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union also took part. The UFCW represents workers at five of the six raided Swift plants. (Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) 12/21/06)

On Dec. 20, more than 30 people rallied in below-freezing temperatures outside the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah to protest ICE's arrests of 154 workers during the Dec. 12 raid at the Swift plant 60 miles away in Hyrum. A union member held a sign demanding "workers' rights, human rights" for undocumented laborers. "We see this as a racist act of state terrorism," said David Hansen, a member of the advocacy group Brown Berets in Salt Lake City. The protesters wore yellow bracelets to symbolize the ones ICE apparently used to mark brown-skinned workers during the raid at the Swift plant in Hyrum; white workers were given blue bracelets and were not required to prove their citizenship, witnesses said. ICE spokesperson Lori Haley said she knew nothing of the yellow bracelets, but denied that ICE agents targeted Swift employees because of their skin color. A handful of members of the anti-immigrant Utah Minuteman Project held a counter-protest across the street, waving signs that read, "defending our borders, culture and language." (Salt Lake Tribune 12/21/06; KCPW News 12/21/06)


Contributions toward Immigration News Briefs are gladly accepted: they should be made payable and sent to Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012. (Tax-deductible contributions of $50 or more may be made payable to the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute and earmarked for "NSN".)

Friday, December 15, 2006

INB 12/15/06: 1,282 Arrested in Meatpacking Raids

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 43 - December 15, 2006

Special Issue: 1,282 Arrested in Meatpacking Raids

1. Mass Arrests in Six States
2. Singled Out by Skin Color
3. The Investigation
4. The Union's Response
5. Why Now?

Immigration News Briefs is a supplement to Weekly News Update on the Americas, published by Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012; tel 212-674-9499; INB is also distributed free via email; contact for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe. Immigration News Briefs is archived at

*1. Mass Arrests in Six States

On Dec. 12, some 1,000 US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents carried out simultaneous dawn raids at six meat processing plants in six states and arrested a total of 1,282 immigrant workers, most of them Latin American. (AP 12/12/06, 12/14/06; ICE News Release 12/13/06) The raids took place on a day celebrated by Mexican Catholics as a day of action honoring the Virgin of Guadalupe. Many of the arrested workers had attended an early Mass before their shifts to celebrate the day. (Rocky Mountain News (Denver) 12/13/06)

The sweep, which ICE dubbed "Operation Wagon Train," targeted plants owned by Swift & Co. in Greeley, Colorado; Grand Island, Nebraska; Cactus, Texas; Hyrum, Utah; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minnesota. Five of the six raided facilities are unionized; only the one in Hyrum is not. (AP 12/12/06; ICE News Release 12/13/06)

ICE promoted the raids as a crackdown on identity theft, alleging that workers had used the stolen identities of US citizens and lawful residents to get jobs at Swift. Yet all 1,282 workers arrested were charged with administrative immigration violations, and only 65 were also charged with criminal violations including illegal re-entry after deportation, identity theft or forgery. ICE declined to say how many workers faced charges specifically relating to identity theft. (Denver Post 12/14/06; ICE News Release 12/13/06) The arrested workers were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, Laos, Sudan, Ethiopia and other countries of origin which had not yet been identified as ICE was still processing the detained workers.
The investigation is ongoing. (ICE News Release 12/13/06)

No civil or criminal charges have been filed against Swift or any current employees. Swift had been participating since 1997 in the Basic Pilot worker authorization program, under which businesses check the legal work status of new employees against government databases. Swift said it believes the raids "violate the agreements associated with the company's participation over the past 10 years in the federal government's Basic Pilot worker authorization program and raise serious questions as to the government's possible violation of individual workers' civil rights." (AP 12/12/06; ICE News Release 12/13/06)

Swift & Company, founded in 1855, is the third largest fresh meat processor in the US, behind Tyson Foods and Cargill Meat Solutions, with sales of $9 billion a year. Once the meat-processing business of agriculture giant ConAgra, Swift is now indirectly owned through various holding companies. (AP 12/12/06)

In Grand Island, Nebraska, Police Chief Steve Lamken refused to allow his personnel to take part in the sweep. "This is our community," Lamken said. "When this is all over, we're still here taking care of our community. And if I have a significant part of my population that's fearful and won't call us, then that's not good for our community." (Rocky Mountain News 12/13/06)

Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck, who had reviewed evidence beforehand, believed the Dec. 12 operation was supposed to take place on Dec. 11, but speculated that ICE officials put the operation off a day after learning that Japanese officials were touring the Greeley plant on Dec. 11. The foreign officials were there to review Swift's response to having recently shipped beef to Japan without proper documentation. (RMN 12/13/06)

*2. Singled Out by Skin Color

"Maria," an employee at the Hyrum plant who is a US-born citizen, said she was singled out for questioning along with other brown-skinned Latinos during the raid, while people with lighter skin were plucked out of line and given blue bracelets to indicate they were legal workers. "I was in the line because of the color of my skin," she said. (Salt Lake Tribune 12/13/06) Attorneys who spoke with witnesses to the raid in Minnesota were also told that white workers who said they were US citizens were directed away immediately, while people with brown skin who said they were US citizens were required to prove it. (Message from Minnesota immigration attorneys 12/13/06, posted on Detention Watch Network list)

Confianza, an association of Hispanic ministers, said in a statement: "[i]t is deplorable that Americans who happen to have brown skin and work at Swift were also 'rounded up with the idea to sort it out later,' as one local community leader described the situation." (RMN 12/13/06)

*3. The Investigation

In a federal investigation that began in February of this year, ICE claims to have uncovered large numbers of unauthorized immigrants who may have used the Social Security numbers of lawful US citizens or residents to get jobs at Swift. "We have been investigating a large identity theft scheme that has victimized many US citizens and lawful residents," ICE spokesperson Barbara Gonzalez said at the plant in Greeley. "The significance is that we're serious about work site enforcement and that those who steal identities of US citizens will not escape enforcement," ICE chief Julie L. Myers told reporters in Washington. (AP 12/12/06)

Sam Rovit, chief executive of Swift, said the company learned of the ICE investigation in March, when ICE subpoenaed information on all the employees working at Swift's Marshalltown plant. But Rovit said the company was "rebuffed repeatedly" in its offers to cooperate. "We have complied with every law that is out there on the books," Rovit said in an interview. (New York Times 12/13/06; RMN 12/13/06) "Current law limits an employer's ability to scrutinize the background and identity of new hires, and--as Swift learned first-hand--employers can, in fact, be punished for probing too deeply into applicants' backgrounds," the company said in a statement. In 2000, the Justice Department's Special Counsel for Unfair Immigration-Related Employment Practices filed a complaint against Swift, alleging that the company's Worthington, Minnesota plant engaged in a "pattern and practice" of discrimination by more heavily scrutinizing the documents of job applicants of were believed to look or sound "foreign." The department sought civil damages of $2.5 million. After two years, Swift settled the claim for about $200,000. (AP 12/12/06)

"At no time did the government, with us, try to communicate the nature of their concerns," said Sean McHugh, Swift vice president of investor relations. "We tried to reach out to them and say, 'Look, if you're concerned, if you're trying to identify or remove or arrest criminals, let us know and we'll bring them to you.'" In September, the agency granted Swift a meeting, "but details were few and far between," McHugh said. "By mid-November, ICE informed us they intended, with or without our cooperation, to effectively shut down six of our plants," McHugh said. (RMN 12/13/06) Swift then fought unsuccessfully in a Texas court for a preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement action. (RMN 12/14/06) "The company ... did attempt to stop us from doing these raids by going to court," said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Swift also conducted its own probe of suspect employees, and more than 400 were fired, quit or fled, said Chertoff. "We don't know where those 400 workers are," Chertoff complained. (Denver Post 12/14/06) "We do wish they would have talked to us before deciding to terminate those individuals," ICE chief Myers said at a news conference. "We regretted they took that action."

Swift said ICE gave the company the go-ahead to question workers' documentation. "At no time has anyone from ICE told any Swift official that they cannot take action against employees who Swift determines, on its own, are unauthorized," ICE Investigations Director Marcy Forman wrote to company attorneys in an October letter supplied by Swift. "We started interviewing people and said, 'Are you really who you say you are?'" said Don Wiseman, general counsel at Swift. "A whole bunch of them said, 'No, I'm really not' and they voluntarily quit." Swift sent others to the Social Security office to get letters verifying their status. "Most of those people didn't come back, either," Wiseman said. (RMN 12/14/06)

Myers and Chertoff said Swift generally cooperated in the months leading up to raids. "We asked the company not to reveal we were coming in advance," Chertoff said. (RMN 12/14/06)

*4. The Union's Response

On Dec. 13, officials of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), which represents workers at five of the six raided plants, filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in Denver's US District Court, asserting that ICE had violated the constitutional rights of the workers it detained. The union sought to have the workers released or be able to communicate with its attorneys. US District Judge John Kane ordered ICE to respond by Dec. 18. (Denver Post 12/14/06) The filing claims that those arrested are being denied access to lawyers and that their whereabouts are unknown. (AP 12/14/06) "Our members are on buses and we don't know where they are," said UFCW spokesperson Jill Cashen. "Children have been left stranded. Parents have not been given the opportunities to make arrangements. We are struggling to reunite families." (Chicago Tribune 12/13/06)

"Essentially, the agents stormed the plants, many of them in riot gear, in an effort designed to terrorize the work force," said Mark Lauritsen, director of a UFCW division. Lauritsen, in a statement, described Swift workers as "innocent victims in an immigration system that has been hijacked by corporations for the purpose of importing an exploitable work force." The union said it has advised all the detained workers to exercise their right to have an attorney and to remain silent until they confer with legal counsel. (RMN 12/13/06)

*5. Why Now?

Labor analyst David Bacon said that with the latest raids, "the administration is sending a message to employers, and especially to unions: Support its program for immigration reform, or face a new wave of raids." Bacon noted that in the period leading up to the passage of the 1986 immigration law (which included an amnesty), immigration agents used high-profile workplace raids "to produce public support for the employer sanctions provision later written into the 1986 immigration law." ("Justice Deported," David Bacon, The American Prospect (web edition) 12/14/06)

Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff said on Dec. 13 that the raids were "a way of emphasizing the fact that getting this issue of comprehensive immigration reform right is ultimately going to save everybody a big headache." Chertoff said the government hopes the Swift operation will spur Congress to act on a comprehensive strategy for immigration reform that includes a temporary-worker program and safeguards against the use of forged or stolen identities. Chertoff also said he hoped the raids would "be a deterrent to illegal workers, [and] cause them to say that, you know, this happened in Swift, it could easily happen somewhere else,' Chertoff said. "In fact, I'm pretty much going to guarantee we're going to keep bringing these cases." (Denver Post 12/14/06)


Contributions toward Immigration News Briefs are gladly accepted: they should be made payable and sent to Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012. (Tax-deductible contributions of $50 or more may be made payable to the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute and earmarked for "NSN".)

Friday, December 8, 2006

INB 12/8/06: 30 Arrested at Omaha Factory

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 42 - December 8, 2006

1. NE: 30 Arrested at Omaha Factory
2. NC: Mall Kiosk Workers Arrested
3. TX: Two Arrested at Air Base
4. NJ Cops Sought ICE Arrest

Immigration News Briefs is a supplement to Weekly News Update on the Americas, published by Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012; tel 212-674-9499; INB is also distributed free via email; contact for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe. Immigration News Briefs is archived at


On Dec. 5, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 30 immigrant workers in raids at two buildings of the Plastrglas company in Omaha, Nebraska. The workers are from Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador. The company manufactures and distributes architectural shapes from plaster reinforced with glass fibers. ICE spokesperson Tim Counts said on Dec. 6 that an investigation is under way to determine whether the company knowingly employed unauthorized immigrants. Counts said the raid was the first workplace raid in Nebraska this year. [AP 12/7/06]

Just a few weeks earlier, in a weeklong sweep from Nov. 15 to 21, ICE agents arrested 25 "immigration status violators" along the Iowa-Nebraska border as part of "Operation Return to Sender," a national initiative targeting people who have failed to comply with final orders of removal. Twenty of those arrested had final removal orders; the other five merely lacked immigration status. Three had criminal convictions. Six of the arrests were in Omaha, 12 in Sioux City and seven in South Sioux City. [ICE News Release 11/22/06]


On Dec. 5, ICE agents arrested 16 people employed at kiosks at the Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville, North Carolina. ICE started investigating the employees after Fayetteville police received a tip that they could be involved in terrorism, said Tom O'Connell, resident agent in charge of the ICE office in Cary. Police then contacted ICE and the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). One of the 16 arrested workers is from Turkey; the other 15 are Israelis. All are between the ages of 18 and 25. O'Connell said ICE does not believe any of them are terrorists.

According to O'Connell, the 16 men arrived in the US about a week earlier and were here on valid tourist visas, but because ICE found out they were working without authorization, all 16 will be deported. O'Connell said agents are still investigating at least one of the companies' owners. The workers typically did not receive wages but were paid a percentage of what they sold at kiosks during a shift. [Fayetteville Observer 12/7/06]


On Dec. 6, ICE agents arrested two Mexican workers hired for construction jobs at Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. The workers allegedly used counterfeit documents which appeared real enough that Air Force guards allowed them on the base. After a check revealed the documents were false, a search for the two men ensued. The operation caused a backup at the Randolph gate as Air Force personnel and ICE agents checked the IDs of everyone who tried to leave. In the same sweep, agents picked up three US citizens working at construction sites on the base who had warrants out for their arrests, said ICE spokesperson Jerry Robinette. [San Antonio Express-News 12/6/06]


On Nov. 22--a day before the Thanksgiving holiday--Edison, New Jersey mayor Jun Choi and police chief George Mieczkowski issued a statement about the immigration arrest last Aug. 2 of Indian national Rajnikant Parikh. Agents from an ICE "fugitive operations team," allegedly acting on a 2005 deportation order, had arrested Parikh as he participated in a protest rally at the Municipal Complex in Edison, New Jersey. Some 75 members of the local Indian community were at the Aug. 2 rally to support Parikh in his claim against Edison township police officer Michael Dotro. Supporters of Dotro were counter-protesting at the rally. Parikh had accused Dotro of attacking him without provocation and arresting him without cause at a July 4 gathering for a fireworks display. Choi and Mieczkowski have backed Dotro, claiming the officer acted in self-defense. Dotro was also cleared in a separate investigation by the police department's internal affairs bureau.

The township's investigation was launched after Parikh's supporters questioned whether Edison police arranged the ICE arrest in retaliation for his claims against Dotro. ICE spokesperson Jamie Zuieback had confirmed at the time that his agency "did coordinate closely with the police department."

The investigation revealed that the arrest was triggered when an Edison police officer engaged in "information-sharing" with ICE, without informing his supervisors. A second officer learned of the collaboration and also withheld the information from supervisers, the investigation found. Township officials declined to name the two officers involved, but said the pair will receive "counseling" regarding their actions.

Choi and Mieczkowski said the investigation confirmed their claim that they had no prior knowledge of the planned arrest. The two officials called Parikh's arrest "unfortunate," and said the timing and location of the arrest were "inappropriate." "Measures have been taken to avoid an incident like this happening again," their statement said.

Parikh remains in immigration detention at Hudson County jail, although his wife, Julie Patel, is a US-born citizen, and Parikh apparently had a valid work permit at the time of his arrest. Parikh's lawyer, Jonathan Saint-Preux, said his client was a victim of a misunderstanding and is currently appealing the immigration case. Parikh also faces criminal charges in relation to the July 4 incident. [Home News Tribune Online 8/5/06, 11/23/06; India Daily 8/4/06]


Contributions toward Immigration News Briefs are gladly accepted: they should be made payable and sent to Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012. (Tax-deductible contributions of $50 or more may be made payable to the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute and earmarked for "NSN".)

Friday, December 1, 2006

INB 12/1/06: Raids in Kentucky, Atlanta, NYC & NJ

Immigration News Briefs
Vol. 9, No. 41 - December 1, 2006

1. More Kentucky Construction Raids
2. Atlanta Airport Raid
3. More Raids in NYC, NJ

Immigration News Briefs is a supplement to Weekly News Update on the Americas, published by Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012; tel 212-674-9499; INB is also distributed free via email; contact for info. You may reprint or distribute items from INB, but please credit us and tell people how to subscribe. Immigration News Briefs is archived at


On Nov. 29, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 32 suspected undocumented workers--including one woman--in northern Kentucky. Thirteen of the workers were arrested at two parking lots near a construction site in Covington, Kentucky, just south of Cincinnati, Ohio. The other 19 were arrested in a parking lot at the Home Depot store in Florence, in Boone County, Kentucky, where they were waiting for transportation to the Covington construction site. ICE spokesperson Gail Montenegro said those arrested were taken to the Boone County jail. They were to appear in US District Court in Covington on Nov. 30.

The immigrants had been contracted to do commercial drywall work for the Spectrum Interiors firm. Dugan and Meyers is the main contractor on the Covington construction site, where a $55 million, 21-story condominium project--the "Ascent at Roebling's Bridge"--is being built. "Home Depot was a pickup location where they all got in a van and went to Covington," explained Tom Scheben of the Boone County Sheriff's Department.

Scheben said the ICE agents are "not trying to pick up one or two here or there. They're trying to get large numbers and they're trying to get the people who are employing them." The arrests followed a coordinated investigation by ICE, the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division, the Department of Labor, and the US Marshals Service. ICE was also assisted in the investigation by the Florence, Covington and Lexington police departments, the Boone County Sheriff's Office, the Kenton County Sheriff's Office and Boone County Jail. [ 11/29/06; Cincinnati Enquirer 11/30/06; Cincinnati Post 11/30/06; ICE News Release 11/29/06]

Between May 9 and June 2, ICE arrested at least 89 people in the same area of northern Kentucky in a raid targeting immigrants employed by subcontractors for the Fischer Homes construction firm [see INB 5/14/06, 5/21/06, 6/18/06]. Five Fischer Homes supervisors were indicted on federal charges in connection with the arrests, but on Nov. 15 US District Court Judge David Bunning dismissed the charges because a key witness, subcontractor Nelson Trejo, could not be found. Trejo had said he would cooperate with federal prosecutors in exchange for a lighter sentence. Two other subcontractors who made similar deals are still facing charges. Fischer Homes as a corporation was not implicated or charged in the case. [ 11/29/06; Cincinnati Enquirer 11/16/06]


On Nov. 29, ICE agents arrested six undocumented Mexican immigrants who worked installing drywall at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. They worked for T.C. Drywall, Inc. of Alpharetta, according to ICE. The workers had security badges that gave them access to restricted areas of the airport, including the tarmac. None of the men was considered a security threat. They were arrested in Hartsfield's south terminal as they arrived for work in the morning. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution 11/29/06] The operation was conducted with the assistance of the Hartsfield Department of Aviation and the Atlanta Police Department and coordinated with the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration. [ICE News Release 11/29/06]


In a seven- or eight-month investigation ending Nov. 30, ICE agents joined with officers of the New York City Department of Probation in arresting 81 immigrants with prior criminal records in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. The raids were part of "Operation Retract," an ongoing effort by ICE's New York office to arrest immigrants on probation for prior misdemeanor or felony convictions and place them in removal proceedings. Of the total number arrested, 45 were legal permanent residents and 36 were out of status. All but nine of the arrested immigrants were from either Latin America (52) or the English-speaking Caribbean (20). They came from the Dominican Republic (28), Mexico (13), Jamaica (10), China (5), Trinidad (4), Colombia (4), Guyana (3), Ecuador (3), El Salvador (3), Korea (2), Antigua (1), Barbados (1), India (1), Grenada (1), Honduras (1) and the United Kingdom (1). ICE agents transported the immigrants to detention facilities where they will be held during removal proceedings. [ICE News Release 11/30/06]

On Nov. 29, ICE arrested 45 immigrants in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan who according to ICE are "child predators and criminal alien sex offenders." The arrests were made under ICE's "Operation Predator" and were separate from those made under "Operation Retract," although the arrested immigrants were also on probation in New York City for prior misdemeanor or felony convictions. Those arrested were citizens of Bangladesh, Bosnia, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Peru, Romania and Trinidad. [ICE News Release 11/29/06]

Another 137 people were arrested in New Jersey between Nov. 13 and 18 in "Return to Sender" raids, which target people with prior removal orders. ICE said 54 of those arrested had been ordered removed by an immigration judge; the other 83 were simply without status. Only 17 of the 137 had criminal records. Those arrested came from 21 countries, including Poland, Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Pakistan, Egypt, India, Slovakia, Costa Rica, Albania, Macedonia and the United Kingdom. [Press of Atlantic City 11/21/06; ICE News Release 11/20/06]


Contributions toward Immigration News Briefs are gladly accepted: they should be made payable and sent to Nicaragua Solidarity Network, 339 Lafayette St, New York, NY 10012. (Tax-deductible contributions of $50 or more may be made payable to the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute and earmarked for "NSN".)