The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 71/No. 3           January 22, 2007  
220 workers arrested in Swift raids
are charged with ‘identity theft’
(front page)
WORTHINGTON, Minnesota—Officials of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have announced that 220 workers of the nearly 1,300 rounded up December 12 in raids of six Swift meatpacking plants around the country face criminal charges including “identity theft.” All the arrested workers face civil immigration charges.

Workers have responded angrily that the government’s claim that the raid—the largest in U.S. history—was an effort to target an “identity theft ring” is simply an attempt to criminalize undocumented immigrants. Thousands of people have been affected by the raids—workers deported or in prison, as well as family members left without income.

“ICE destroyed families,” said a worker on his way out of the Worthington plant January 6. “Last week my wife and I drove the children of a detained coworker to stay with relatives in Texas. There’s no one here to care for them.” He asked that his name not be published.

At the Worthington plant, 230 workers were arrested by ICE agents. Many have been deported, pressured into signing “voluntary departure” papers. Often, relatives found out their whereabouts only when their loved ones called home from abroad. Baida González Alvarez told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that “she spoke to her husband on Sunday for the first time since the raid and found out he has been deported to Guatemala.”

The remaining workers from Worthington are being held at a federal detention center in Atlanta awaiting deportation hearings. About 20 of them have been indicted on criminal charges.

Mariesa Gómez, a meat packer at Swift here, told the Militant her son-in-law is being held in Atlanta. She said conditions there were horrible and the detained workers were talking about going on a hunger strike.

Similar experiences were reported in the Colorado Rocky Mountain News about the conditions of Swift workers from the plant in Greeley, Colorado, who are being held in immigration jails. One worker, released on bond December 26, told the paper that “he was put in a room at the Aurora jail with 27 other inmates when the capacity is for nine people. He had to sleep standing up.” He was denied access to a phone for four days.

United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7, which represents workers at the Greeley Swift plant, has filed a federal civil lawsuit charging that the ICE raid violated workers’ constitutional rights. On January 5 the union submitted affidavits from more than a dozen detained workers before a federal judge in the U.S. district court in Denver. The suit accuses the government of denying workers due process by blocking their access to lawyers or family, lying about deportation documents they were told to sign, and keeping them in crowded cells. Dozens were shipped off to a jail in Texas, separated from their families.

On January 7 a community meeting of 300, mostly Swift workers and their families, was held here at Prairie Elementary School. The gathering was organized by community groups and UFCW Local 1161, which represents workers at the Swift plant. It was held to show support for workers arrested and their relatives.

Yolanda Cano, a former Swift worker, said she appreciated the event but more had to be done. “We should get together to discuss what to do concretely, like how we can help the people who are still jailed.” Hilda Mazariegos, who also used to work at Swift and whose husband is imprisoned in Atlanta, said, “I am thankful for the presents, but no matter how many toys they give us that is not the solution to the problem.”
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Chicago worker denounces gov’t effort to deport her  
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