Fire and ICE: The Return of Workplace Immigration Raids

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At the end of February immigration agents descended on a handful of Japanese and Chinese restaurants in the suburbs of Jackson, Mississippi, and in nearby Meridian. Fifty-five immigrant cooks, dishwashers, servers and bussers were loaded into vans and taken to a detention center about 160 miles away in Jena, Louisiana.

Their arrests and subsequent treatment did more than provoke outrage among Jackson's immigrant rights activists. Labor advocates in California also took note of the incident, fearing that it marked the beginning of a new wave of immigrant raids and enforcement actions in workplaces. In response, California legislators have written a bill providing legal protections for workers, to keep the Mississippi experience from being duplicated in the Golden State.

Once the Mississippi restaurant workers had been arrested, they essentially fell off the radar screen for several days. Jackson lawyer Jeremy Litton, who represented three Guatemalan workers picked up in the raid, could not get the government to schedule hearing dates for them.  He was unable to verify that the other detained immigrants were being held in the same center, or even who they were. 

The Geo Corporation, formerly known as the Wackenhut Corporation, operates the LaSalle Detention Facility in Jena. Geo's roots go back to the Pinkerton Detective Agency, which became notorious in the nineteenth and first half of the 20th century for violent assaults on unions and strikers. 

Today Geo operates 16 immigrant detention centers around the country, according to its 2015 annual report. It runs privatized prisons as well, some of which have been investigated by the federal government after allegations of bad conditions and understaffing. The LaSalle facility has 1,160 beds. Litton says it is normally full, so taking in an additional 55 detainees would result in severe overcrowding.

The use of Jena's immigrant jail to hold workers detained in workplace raids has a bitter history in Mississippi. In 2008 481 workers were arrested at a Howard Industries electrical equipment factory, in Laurel, Mississippi, in the middle of union negotiations. They, too, were taken to the LaSalle detention center. There they were fed peanut butter sandwiches at mealtimes, and according to Patricia Ice, attorney for the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA), “There weren’t even enough beds and people were sleeping on the floor.” Eight workers detained in that raid were charged with aggravated identity theft in federal court, for having given a false Social Security number to the employer when they were hired.

“This latest raid is causing a lot of fear in our community,” says MIRA director Bill Chandler.  “There's fear everywhere now because of the threats from Trump, but here in Mississippi our history of racism makes fear even stronger.”

Read the entire article here: 

http://davidbaconrealitycheck.blogspot.com/2017/06/the-return-of-workplace-immigration.html