Two years after the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) swept up and detained thousands of workers from six meatpacking plants across the country during one of the nation’s largest immigration raids, a new report released by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) today details how ICE officials terrorized UFCW members under the “standard operating procedures” of the Bush administration.
On December 12, 2006, ICE used 133 warrants to arrest 1,297 workers — the vast majority U.S. citizens. One U.S. citizen spent $90 on a cab ride back home once ICE released her after realizing they had made the “mistake” of detaining her for 12 hours in a location 300 miles away from her workplace.
The UFCW accuses ICE of having engaged in racial profiling, as witnesses testified that minorities were “singled out,” saying “…race was, almost without question, the sole criteria for harsher interrogations and treatment to which certain workers were subjected…” A UFCW member is quoted in the report as saying:
“It’s so sad and it hurts a lot to be targeted because we are Mexican…I thought maybe I should hang around a lot of white people so they wouldn’t think I was illegal.”
The UFCW also claims that ICE systematically ignored due process laws. According to the UFCW, workers detained during the Swift raid were denied legal counsel while they were being held at an Iowa military base. The UFCW claims that, in some cases, ICE even gave false information to lawyers, telling them that they would soon be granted access to their clients while the detainees were actually being transferred to out-of-state facilities.
At the time, many believed the Bush administration’s harsh immigration tactics were meant to help make the case for comprehensive immigration reform. Former Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said that the his department’s tactics reflected DHS’ “determination to make a down-payment on credibility with the American people.” However, the Bush-backed immigration bill failed during the summer of 2007 and the large-scale raids continued up until Bush left office.
Bush may be gone, but the aftermath of the raids endures. The UFCW report claims that the previous administration’s harsh immigration enforcement tactics have stirred “hysteria around immigration and immigrants.” Immigrants who fear being turned over to immigration authorities have been reluctant to report abuse or crime to the police. According to the report, Latinos or individuals “perceived” to be of Latin American descent face even more discrimination and racial profiling in their communities. The UFCW also discusses the raid’s cost to taxpayers. It’s estimated that the Bush administration’s immigration raids may have cost ICE $154 billion of taxpayer’s money.
In a press call today, UFCW president Joe Hansen called for “a new chapter in the immigration debate” that “works for America’s workers.”