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Workers condemn immigration raids
Describe brutal impact of arrests
Militant photos by Carlos Samaniego
Worker in Worthington, Minnesota, points to damage to his front door (shown in inset) after immigration agents pounded on it while trying to enter his home following December 12 raids at six Swift packing plants across the United States.
BY CARLOS SAMANIEGO
AND HELEN MEYERS
WORTHINGTON, MinnesotaWorkers in this southwest Minnesota town are still trying to find relatives and friends arrested in the massive December 12 immigration sweep at plants here and in five other states owned by the giant meatpacking firm Swift & Company. Many are preparing for immigration hearings. Expressing outrage, they described to Militant reporters how they are responding to the brutal impact of the raids, in which 1,282 workers were arrested.
Militant reporters interviewed members of a dozen families affected by the raid at the Worthington plant, where 230 people were arrested. Twenty of these workers have now been indicted by a federal grand jury on criminal charges, including 15 for aggravated identity theft for supposedly using false IDs.
One of those arrested was Catalina Rodríguez Pérez. She was locked up in the Nobles County Jail here despite the fact she has a 14-month-old child.
On December 17 her coworkers, United Food and Commercial Workers union Local 1161, local churches, and others organized a vigil outside the jail to demand that she be freed. The next day she was released.
Rodríguez Pérez now faces a February hearing. Deprived of an income as she awaits the court date, her family is receiving help from friends and coworkers.
Alberto Ramos, a construction worker, told Militant reporters that the factory raid was conducted to intimidate workers. If you ask the bosses for what you think you deserve, they will say, If you dont like what you are getting you can leave. They know many people dont have documents.
The union can help, added Ramos, a U.S. citizen born in Mexico. They dont ask if you have papers or not.
Despite having documents to prove his legal residence status, a Swift worker who requested that his name not be used said cops kept him handcuffed for 10 hours without food or water. We need the union to defend workers against these attacks, he said.
A high school student, Blanca, told the Militant, The day after the raids many people wore white T-shirts in school to show solidarity. Black, white, and Latino students took part. The school principal said we had to take the T-shirts off, but we didnt, and they didnt do anything to us.
Blancas 15-year-old brother Juan said some classmates wrote protest letters to the governor and to President George Bush saying, You can deport us, but we will be right back.
The day of the factory sweep, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents also conducted raids that evening in two trailer parks in Worthington. Militant reporters visited one home whose front door still showed dents where the cops pounded on it, demanding to be let in. They banged so hard that several pictures fell off the wall.
A worker living there, who also asked that his name not be published, said that at first they shouted in English, This is the police. Receiving no response, they yelled in Spanish, Immigration!
I was sure I was not going to open the door, the worker said. I reinforced the front door with chairs and put anything I could find against the window. Then I began phoning everyone I knew to say that la migra was here. I took my family to the rear bedroom and stayed there until they left. Four people were taken away from his trailer court.
Maura DeLuca from New York and Joe Swanson from Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this article.
BY JOE SWANSON
GRAND ISLAND, NebraskaMilitant reporters visited workers here affected by the December 12 immigration raid at the Swift beef plant, where federal cops arrested 261 people. At least 15 have been charged with identity theft for supposedly using false IDs in order to get a job.
Michelle Lopez, a U.S.-born worker, said her friend was arrested in the raid and is locked up in a prison near Atlanta even though he signed a voluntary departure form. To contact him, Lopez has to pay around $60 for an hour of calls.
Another worker, whose brother was arrested, joined a vigil of more than 200 December 17 to protest the raid. Many other people arrested with him have been sent back to Mexico, she said. But they wont let my brother go. They are holding him at a jail south of Omaha on charges of identity theft.
Some of those arrested had documents proving they were legal residents. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials shipped them to the National Guards Camp Dodge near Des Moines, Iowa, more than four hours away. Upon release, they were given 30 days to prove their legal status and told to find their own way home.
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 22 here rented vans to bring back these workers, which included mothers who had no one to care for their children.
By the end of this week, ICEs Air Transportation Unit will have facilitated the removal of more than 4,500 illegal aliens in 14 days, said Julie Myers, assistant secretary of Homeland Security for ICE, according to the December 22 Grand Island Independent.