Saturday, December 30th, 2006

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Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Four girls console each other after a meeting Wednesday in Hyrum.
The mother of three of the girls was arrested in the
raid at the Swift and Co. plant.

ICE raids on Swift plants targeted plants that were unionized.

The ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids on Swift plants, that placed Christian families in concentration camps right before Christmas had little or nothing to do with identity theft, and were all about union busting and racism. ICE had warrants for 170 individuals, and chose to treat 13,000 people, in Swift plants in 6 states, as criminals, whose crime was showing up for work.

The core issue here is a failed immigration system that compounds its failure by victimizing workers.

The raids were not necessary to the investigation. As the UFCW testifies, the previous month:

four workers from the Louisville, Kentucky, Swift meat packing plant were arrested by ICE agents as part of this same investigation. ICE officials calmly went into the plant and extracted the four individuals who they were looking for. The Louisville plant was not raided on Tuesday.

The other raids could have been handled the same way IF the object was to arrest the those actually engaged in identity theft. But even that is misleading. David Bacon in American Prospect reports the raids targeted plants that were unionized.

Since passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, hiring an undocumented worker has been a violation of federal law. . . The real targets of this law are workers themselves, who become violators the minute they take a job.

Arresting people for holding a job, however, sounds a little inconsistent with the traditional values of hard work supported so strongly by the Bush administration. It makes better PR to accuse workers of a crime that sends shivers down the spines of middle-class newspaper readers, already maxing out their credit cards in the holiday rush.
. . .

The Swift action follows months of ICE pressuring employers to fire workers whose Social Security numbers don’t match the agency’s database. These no-match actions have been concentrated in workplaces where immigrants are organizing unions or standing up for their rights.
. . .
It’s no accident that workers belong to unions in five of the six Swift meatpacking plants where this week’s raids took place.

The workers in the plants were treated worse than criminals. The agents stormed in

dressed in riot gear, brandishing military weapons and locking the doors to prevent anyone from coming in or out. . . In Utah, the ICE agents used skin color to identify the “suspects.” In other locations naturalized citizens were separated from the native born.

As the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

. . . she and others were forced to stand in a line by U.S. immigration agents. Non-Latinos and people with lighter skin were plucked out of line and given blue bracelets.
The rest, mostly Latinos with brown skin, waited until they were ”cleared” or arrested . . .
”I was in the line because of the color of my skin,” she said, her voice shaking. ”They’re discriminating against me. I’m from the United States, and I didn’t even get a blue bracelet.”

But the immediate and truly dreadful effect of the raids was to separate children from their parents and leave hundreds of children with no one to care for them. Heroic members of the effected communities have tried to lend a hand. One of the most distressing stories comes from the UFCW testimony before Congress:

Perhaps the most inhumane result of the ICE action last Tuesday is how it ripped parents away from hundreds of children at schools and with babysitters. In one small school district in Texas, 25 children were left in their care the evening of the raid. In Marshalltown, Iowa, a Hispanic ministry was caring for a breastfeeding infant whose single mother was detained. The baby refused a bottle and was struggling to eat. ICE transported her mother to a Georgia detention facility two days later. To this day, one week later, there a small child still with a non-relative babysitter. We still cannot locate its only parent presumed to be caught up in this raid.

Today’s selections hit a whole range of targets.