Workers outraged at Minnesota raid
From left: Enrique Tapia, Ramiro Castillo, and Adam, workers in Austin, Minnesota, discuss May 30-31 immigration raid with Militant reporter Tom Fiske (speaking).|
BY FRANK FORRESTAL
AND TOM FISKE
AUSTIN, Minnesota, June 3Immigrant workers and their families in this rural meatpacking town of 23,000 are outraged at yet another raid here by la migra.
The May 30-31 sweeps followed immigration raids last December here and in Albert Lea, a meatpacking center 20 miles west of Austin, where a total of 45 immigrants were arrested.
The dragnet here also came on the heels of raids in three Minnesota cities: Willmar, Worthington, and Minneapolis.
Immigration agents raided several homes and arrested 20 immigrant workers during the two-day sweep. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said the raid was part of a nationwide initiative focused on arresting "criminal aliens, codenamed Operation Secure Streets. ICE officials said they were particularly after illegal aliens with drunken driving convictions.
We have made arrests; again, this is nothing random," said ICE official Tim Counts. "This is a targeted enforcement action. We're looking for specific individuals."
Counts said the agency was looking for five people, but came across about 15 others while carrying out the raid.
Interviews with workers on the receiving end of the raids show a different picture. Heres a description of what happened at the home of Ramiro Castillo, a Hormel worker, who has lived in this country for 20 years.
"They knocked on the door," Castillo said, referring to the ICE agents. "I barely opened the door when they forced their way in. They twisted my arm and kept pushing me, telling me to put my hands over my head.
They demanded to know why I tried to shut the door. I told them, I dont know you. They demanded to see my papers. Then they handcuffed two people in the apartment, a father and his son who had been asleep in the living room. I insisted that they not be taken away without their shoes and I was able to put their shoes on. They did not let me give them their shirts or their wallets.
They prevented me from giving them my telephone number, and they prevented them from giving me the number of their mother. At no time did the cops say they were looking for someone specific.
While all this is going on one of them was watching everything with his hand on his gun, said Castillo. Two of the cops were wearing plain clothes, and the cop with the gun wore a uniform, he noted.
The raids have opened a discussion in the Latino community on what to do in response. We have to organize ourselves to stop this, said Adam, a meatpacker who asked that his last name not be used for fear of persecution by the government. They grab whomever they come across. Adam was also critical of the new immigration bill being debated in the Senate and beyond (see front-page article). There are too many requirements to get a green card," he said. "Most of us will never have all the things that are needed.
Referring to the May Day marches and other protests demanding legalization of the undocumented over the past year and a half, Castillo said, Doing the marches was a good thing. Now we have to do it even more and right here in Austin. If we want to be in this country we have to fight, we dont have to let them humiliate us.
In another interview outside the local Mexican bakery, Arturo, a farm worker who also asked that his last name not be used, was angry over the earlier raid in December in which a friend of his was arrested. La migra came to my friend's house," he said. "They broke a window next to the door, unlatched the door, and entered the house. They beat him and arrested him. I still dont know where he is. At another home, immigration cops said they were the local police and had a search warrant. "But this was a lie," he said.
A few of the workers reported that many did not report to work after the raids. This was particularly true of Quality Pork Processors, the slaughterhouse adjacent to Hormel Foods, where almost all workers are Latino.
The number of individuals under ICE custody has rapidly expanded from about 18,000 last year at this time to more than 29,000 today, according to an April 20 speech by ICE assistant secretary Julie Myers to the American Immigration Lawyers Association. These workers are being held in some 200 detention centers and jails across the country.
Seth Galinsky contributed to this article.
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