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1. NEW YORK TIMES: Nearly 600 Were Arrested in Factory Raid, Officials Say http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/27/us/27raid.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=immigrants&st=cse&oref=slogin -- Federal officials on Tuesday revised upward to 595 the number of suspected illegal immigrants arrested this week in a raid on a Laurel, Miss., factory, making it the largest immigration crackdown on a United States workplace in recent years.
2. NEW YORK TIMES: Hundreds of Workers Held in Immigration Raid http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/26/us/26raid.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=immigrant&st=cse&oref=slogin LAUREL, Miss. — In another large-scale workplace immigration crackdown, federal officials raided a factory here on Monday, detaining at least 350 workers they said were in the country illegally.
3. ASSOCIATED PRESS: ICE raids Miss. plant seeking illegal workers http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/25/AR2008082501775_pf.html LAUREL, Miss. -- Federal immigration agents said they rounded up 350 suspected undocumented workers in a raid on a Mississippi electrical equipment plant Monday, after sealing all entrances and questioning employees.
4. HATTIESBURG AMERICAN (MS): Feds hold 595 in Howard raid http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008808270369 -- Following their early-morning raid Monday at the Howard Industries Inc. plant in Laurel, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents wound up with the largest round-up of suspected illegal workers since the founding of the Department of Homeland Security. The final tally of detainees reached 595 Monday night, a 70 percent increase over the initial 350 figure released by the agency earlier in the day, said Brandon Montgomery, ICE public affairs spokesman.
AMERICAN (MS): Feds claim 8 detainees stole IDs http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008308280001 Eight detainees from Monday's raid on Howard Industries had used stolen identities, including one of a dead person, to gain employment, federal prosecutors said Wednesday. Prosecutors displayed fraudulent resident alien cards, Social Security cards along with Howard Industry employment verification forms as proof that the suspected illegal immigrant workers had used stolen identities. HATTIESBURG
6. HISPANIC TIPS: ACLU Investigating Largest Immigration Raid In The Country - Reports Of Government Discrimination And Secrecy Trigger Scrutiny -
http://www.hispanictips.com/2008/08/28/aclu-investigating-largest-immigration-raid-in-the-country-reports-of-government-discrimination-and-secrecy-trigger-scrutiny-mississippi/ LAUREL, MS - In the wake of the largest workplace immigration raid in the country that involved the arrest of at least 600 workers and reports that raise grave concerns about the actions of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Mississippi officials, the American Civil Liberties Union began an investigation of ICE’s conduct and called on the Bush administration to ensure that constitutional rights are scrupulously respected going forward. Staff from the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project arrived in
today to assess the situation firsthand. Mississippi
7. WASHINGTON POST: Businesses Cite a Catch-22 After Miss. Immigration Raid http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/27/AR2008082703931.html -- The arrests this week of nearly 600 immigrant workers at a manufacturing plant in Laurel, Miss., are fueling a national debate over a federal system to check new hires' work documents, a program whose expansion the Bush administration has made a cornerstone of its fight against illegal immigration. In what they called the largest immigration sweep at a single site in
history, federal agents raided a Howard Industries electrical transformer plant Monday despite the fact that the company last year joined the work eligibility system, called E-Verify. U.S.
8. HATTIESBURG AMERICAN (MS): Detainees say employer sealed off escape routes http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008808270386 LAUREL - When federal agents raided the Howard Industries plant early Monday, they sealed off the exits and made it impossible for any of the workers to escape, some of the detainees released said Tuesday. "When we saw that immigration had us surrounded, it wasn't worth running," one woman, who didn't want her identity published, said through a translator. "All we could think about was what was going to happen to our children. We were worried about them.”
HATTIESBURG AMERICAN (MS): Residents have 'mixed feelings' over Laurel raid http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008308270015 LAUREL - The downtown business district was quiet. Few people strolled the sidewalk between the businesses on Laurel Central Avenue, although their owners went about their Tuesday afternoon as normal. Inside, however, opinions were sharply divided on the possible consequences of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid on Howard Industries on Monday, which resulted in about 595 suspected illegal workers being detained.
HATTIESBURG AMERICAN (MS): Applicants line up to take advantage of sudden job openings http://www.hattiesburgamerican.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008808270371 - Howard Industries found itself at the center of activity again Tuesday. This time the scene wasn't a swarm of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers heavily armed and donning flak jackets. It was a line of job applicants, eager to take advantage of the sudden surge of job openings at the plant located in LAUREL , where the unemployment rate is 6.3 percent. Jones County
11. DES MOINES REGISTER: School enrollment dips only slightly after raid http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=Pluck_signin&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.desmoinesregister.com%2Fapps%2Fpbcs.dll%2Farticle%3FAID%3D2008808270360 Enrollment at Postville's public schools has barely dipped, despite concern that last May's immigration raid would lead to wholesale losses of students. Superintendent Darwin Winke said 532 students showed up for classes last week, the first week of school. That number was down just five from last year's enrollment, he said. Many of the hundreds of illegal immigrants swept up in the raid at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant were parents with children in the school district. Although some of those children are
U.S. citizens because they were born here, many people in town expected them to move back to Guatemala or with their parents. Mexico
NEW YORK TIMES: Nearly 600 Were Arrested in Factory Raid, Officials Say
August 27, 2008
Federal officials on Tuesday revised upward to 595 the number of suspected illegal immigrants arrested this week in a raid on a
On Monday, the day of the raid, officials said at least 350 people had been arrested.
Officials said 475 of the immigrants were immediately taken by bus to a detention center in the central
Of the 595 arrested, 106 were temporarily released for what Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials called “humanitarian” reasons — because of illness or the need to care for children — though they still face deportation. Nine unaccompanied 17-year-olds were taken into custody by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.
The relatively low number of criminal cases could represent a shift in government policy, several immigration experts said, particularly in view of the hundreds who were prosecuted and sent to jail after a similar raid at a meatpacking plant at
“I’m going to hope that it is,” said Kathleen C. Walker, a past president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. After Postville, “they got a lot of heat from different avenues,” Ms. Walker said, referring to the outcry from advocates over the mass, rapid-fire nature of the criminal proceedings, which took place on the grounds of the National Cattle Congress in
But an ICE spokeswoman said some of the 475 could still face criminal charges, and she rejected the suggestion that the government’s policy had changed.
“Absolutely not,” said the spokeswoman, Barbara Gonzalez, in an e-mail message. “In fact it’s the opposite.” She added that more people were being charged with crimes by ICE every year.
“It’s just horrific,” said Victoria Cintra, an organizer for the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance. “We’ve got two families where the mom and the dad were released with ankle bracelets” — electronic tracking devices — “and they have children. They’ve got bills to pay and kids to feed. We’ve got a woman who is 24, 26 weeks pregnant, and she’s got a husband, brother, father and brother-in-law who were detained.”
One of the workers who appeared in court on Tuesday, Paula Gomez, a native of
“Most of the families are not leaving their homes because they are afraid,” said the Rev. Ken Ramon-Landry of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in
The government said it had acted on a tip from a union member, but union officials in
“You ask anyone in the Laurel-Hattiesburg area,” Mr. Shaffer said.
NEW YORK TIMES: Hundreds of Workers Held in Immigration Raid
August 26, 2008
Numerous agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement descended on a factory belonging to Howard Industries Inc., which manufactures electrical transformers, among other products.
As of late Monday afternoon, no criminal charges had been filed, said Barbara Gonzalez, an agency spokeswoman, but she said that dozens of workers had been “identified, fingerprinted, interviewed, photographed and processed for removal from the
The raid follows a similar large-scale immigration operation at a meatpacking plant in
The mass rapid-fire hearings after the Postville raid took place in a temporary court facility on the grounds of the National Cattle Congress in
An immigrant rights group in
“It’s horrific what ICE is doing to these families and these communities,” said Shuya Ohno, a spokesman for the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance. “It’s just hard to imagine that this is the
Entrances to the sprawling plant, in an industrial section south of town, had been blocked off by ICE. A nearby fast-food restaurant was full of the blue-shirted agents, one of whom would say only that a “little inspection” was under way at the facility.
A woman entering the church grounds with four small children said several of the youngsters’ parents had been detained. The woman, Mary Troyer, said she was a translator for many of the families.
“I don’t like this at all,” Ms. Troyer said. “I don’t understand it. They have come here to work. It’s very sad.”
The ICE spokeswoman, Ms. Gonzalez, said the workers would be taken to an ICE detention center to “await the outcome of their cases.” She said 50 would be “released into the community” instead of being sent to the center, for “humanitarian reasons,” including medical difficulties or the need to take care of children.
She said no lawyers were present while the workers were being interrogated. “Everyone will have due process under law,” Ms. Gonzalez said.
Late Monday afternoon, the grim-faced workers, some of them handcuffed, were lined up near white and silver buses as the rain poured down.
In a statement issued after the raid, Howard Industries, one of the largest employers in the region, acknowledged that it was “visited” by immigration agents trying to determine if its employees were citizens or otherwise legally authorized to work in the country.
“Howard Industries runs every check allowed to ascertain the immigration status of all applicants for jobs,” the statement said. “It is company policy that it hires only
“We’re very disturbed at what’s happened,” Mr. Chandler said. “It’s a real contradiction between our proclaimed values of hard work and family in
ASSOCIATED PRESS: ICE raids
plant seeking illegal workers Miss.
By HOLBROOK MOHR
The Associated Press
Monday, August 25, 2008; 8:14 PM
LAUREL, Miss. -- Federal immigration agents said they rounded up 350 suspected undocumented workers in a raid on a Mississippi electrical equipment plant Monday, after sealing all entrances and questioning employees.
Barbara Gonzalez, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman, confirmed the raid at Howard Industries Inc. of
"This is ... part of an ongoing ICE investigation that has revealed that illegal aliens are employed at Howard Industries," Gonzalez said.
She said agents were acting on a tip from a union worker and were still interviewing plant employees late Monday.
The raid was executed based on "evidence relating to aggravated identity theft, fraudulent use of Social Security numbers and other crimes, as well as a civil search warrant for individuals illegally in the
Agents were talking with all workers at the sprawling plant to determine their residency status, said agency spokesman Brandon Montgomery.
A statement on the Web site of the Laurel Leader Call newspaper, attributed to Howard Industries, said the company "runs every check allowed to ascertain the immigration status of all applicants for its jobs."
"It is company policy that it hires only
Chief Executive Officer Billy Howard did not respond to a message left by The Associated Press.
A recording at Howard Industries said the telephone switchboard was closed. A man who answered the phone at the security station said reporters would have to call back Tuesday.
All plant entrances were blocked and a tent was set up at one checkpoint to keep agents out of a steady rain. Officers in an unmarked vehicle stopped motorists traveling on roads behind the factory and told them to leave.
People exiting the plant told The Hattiesburg American newspaper that so many workers were stopped that operations shut down. It wasn't clear how many workers the plant employed.
"Everybody's crying, worried about what's going to happen to him," he said in Spanish.
The ICE spokeswoman said 50 people were given alternatives to detention for humanitarian reasons, meaning they could be fitted with a tracking device and order to report to a case worker later.
Howard Industries was founded in the 1960s. In 2002, state lawmakers approved a $31.5 million, taxpayer-backed incentive plan aimed at helping to expand its operations. The company produces dozens of products, including electrical transformers and medical supplies, according to its Web site.
The raid is one of several nationwide in recent years.
On May 12, federal immigration officials swept into
Note: ICE says people whose relatives were detained can call for information: 866-341-3858.
August 27, 2008
By TIM DOHERTY
Following their early-morning raid Monday at the Howard Industries Inc. plant in
The final tally of detainees reached 595 Monday night, a 70 percent increase over the initial 350 figure released by the agency earlier in the day, said Brandon Montgomery, ICE public affairs spokesman.
"This was (ICE's) single largest sweep ever in one area,"
"The hearings are done expeditiously so as not to keep someone held any longer than is necessary,"
That time can be extended if either the government or detainee decides to appeal the ruling
Eight detainees made first appearances Tuesday in United States District Court in
"We (did) a sweep of the facility from head to toe," he said.
India Lazaro, a Panamanian native who has lived in
"Chaos," Lazaro said. "People won't go outside, even if they're legal, and if you're (Hispanic), you're getting looks.
"It's a hateful look, like, 'You got what you deserved.'"
"I want to make it clear that this is not the end of the investigation,"
It was possible that more of the detainees could wind up in a federal court if evidence surfaces of identity theft or someone returning to the
Eight had aggravated identity theft charges read against them Tuesday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Parker.
Parker scheduled preliminary and detention hearings for all eight starting at 9:30 a.m. today at the
The eight charged Tuesday included:
· Paula Gonzalez
· Miguel Bartholome-Perez
· Rigoberto Rodriguez
· Maria Montalvo Guzman
· Fernando Hernandez-Virgen
· Angel Rodriguez-Flores
· Doroteo Fernandez-Soto.
If convicted, each could face up to two years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.
August 28, 2008
Eight detainees from Monday's raid on Howard Industries had used stolen identities, including one of a dead person, to gain employment, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.
Prosecutors displayed fraudulent resident alien cards, Social Security cards along with Howard Industry employment verification forms as proof that the suspected illegal immigrant workers had used stolen identities.
Ben Taylor, an agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, testified that some of the workers had received the fake identification information from friends.
The eight were among 595 suspected illegal immigrant workers detained during Monday's raid.
The eight appeared at the U.S. District Court in
U.S. Magistrate Mike Parker ordered all eight held without bond.
Public defender Abby Brumley requested that detainee Paula Gomez be freed on bond to tend to her 5-year-old son, whom Brumley said had been sick. Brumley said there was no one else to care for Gomez's son
"Her situation is different," Brumley said.
Gomez had worked at Howard Industries three years under the alias Leonor Garcia, prosecutors said.
"She has been charged with a serious crime. We need to keep this defendant until the charges are resolved," Assistant U.S. Attorney Gaines Cleveland said.
Parker refused to let the detainees out on bond because they could "assume another identity (and) easily flee."
Taylor, the only witness during the preliminary hearing, said the eight workers were interviewed by Spanish-speaking ICE agents. The agents concluded that seven of the workers are from
"We're pleased that the judge agreed with the government," said First Assistant U.S. attorney Stan Harris.
Harris said that there could be more identity theft cases after the remaining detainees are interviewed by ICE officials.
At least 475 detainees were sent to a federal detention center in
Harris would not say where the eight detainees are being held. However, some of the detainees were wearing inmate jumpsuits from the Pearl River County Jail and others had Mississippi Department of Corrections' clothing.
If convicted of aggravated identity theft, the eight could face up to two years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine.
HISPANIC TIPS: ACLU Investigating Largest Immigration Raid In The Country - Reports Of Government Discrimination And Secrecy Trigger Scrutiny -
Posted on: August 28th, 2008
CONTACT: Rachel Myers, (212) 549-2666; firstname.lastname@example.org
LAUREL, MS - In the wake of the largest workplace immigration raid in the country that involved the arrest of at least 600 workers and reports that raise grave concerns about the actions of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Mississippi officials, the American Civil Liberties Union began an investigation of ICE’s conduct and called on the Bush administration to ensure that constitutional rights are scrupulously respected going forward. Staff from the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project arrived in
“We are deeply concerned by reports that workers at the factory where the raid occurred were segregated by race or ethnicity and interrogated, the factory was locked down for several hours, workers were denied access to counsel, and ICE failed to inform family members and lawyers following the raid where the workers were being jailed,” said Mónica Ramírez, a staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project who has traveled to Mississippi to meet with family members and lawyers about the government’s actions.
On Monday, ICE agents raided a factory located in Laurel, Mississippi owned by Howard Industries Inc., detained at least 600 workers and transported the arrested workers to a federal immigration detention facility in Jena, Louisiana, nearly 200 miles from their homes and family. Some of the workers who are parents of small children were released with an electronic monitoring device and ordered to report back to an ICE office. A few of the arrested workers have been charged under the same criminal statutes used by the government in the recent Postville, Iowa raids that were heavily criticized for the mass prosecutions and assembly-line guilty pleas that the government employed.
The ACLU of Mississippi and the national ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project are also working closely with organizations and advocates in Laurel, Hattiesburg and Jena to monitor the government’s actions, assess the conduct of the raid and ensure compliance with the constitutional requirements of due process and non-discrimination.“
WASHINGTON POST: Businesses Cite a Catch-22 After Immigration Raid Miss.
By Spencer S. Hsu, Alejandro Lazo and Darryl Fears
Thursday, August 28, 2008; A01
The arrests this week of nearly 600 immigrant workers at a manufacturing plant in Laurel, Miss., are fueling a national debate over a federal system to check new hires' work documents, a program whose expansion the Bush administration has made a cornerstone of its fight against illegal immigration.
In what they called the largest immigration sweep at a single site in
The White House has called the program a key weapon against illegal hiring, proposing to expand it to nearly 200,000 government contractors this fall, covering about 4 million U.S. workers. Thirteen state legislatures have enacted similar legislation, and Congress is debating whether to extend E-Verify this fall.
Major U.S. employers assailed the expanding crackdown, saying it creates a Catch-22. If businesses fail to enroll in E-Verify, they run the risk of a raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said. But if they sign up, they face added costs, labor disruptions and discrimination complaints -- as well as the risk that flaws in the program won't stop all illegal hiring or prevent government raids, they said.
"I think it's a mistake on the part of a company to think that simply because they [enroll] that they are going to be protected from any kind of government audit or raid," said Myles Gladstone, vice president of Miller & Long, of Bethesda, a major construction firm based in the Washington area.
At issue is a program that is supposed to help employers abide by laws that bar the hiring of illegal immigrants. E-Verify allows companies to check federal Social Security and immigration databases to determine whether an employee is authorized to work.
However, a key weakness in E-Verify is that while it can determine whether a Social Security number presented by a worker is valid, it often cannot determine whether the number belongs to the applicant. Many workers try to evade detection by using another person's identification.
That was allegedly the case Monday, when dozens of
About 475 workers were sent to a detention center in
A spokeswoman for ICE noted the investigation began two years ago, before Howard joined E-Verify.
In its only comment on the raid, Howard Industries released a statement saying: "Howard Industries runs every check allowed to ascertain the immigration status of all applicants for jobs. It is company policy that it hires only
The circumstances echoed a December 2006 raid on six plants operated by meat processor Swift & Co., now JBS Swift & Co., after which the company reported $53 million in losses, even though it was a longtime participant in the record-checking system.
Bush officials say such attacks are a smokescreen by industry groups, who oppose the program because it works. They note that many opponents embraced E-Verify last year, when they expected it to have less bite as part of a broad overhaul that would have legalized many immigrant workers.
But one of the lessons of last year's failed immigration legislation is that the American public wants to see tougher enforcement at U.S. workplaces before it will expand immigration or legalize those in the country unlawfully, said Stewart A. Baker, assistant secretary for policy at the Department of Homeland Security.
"We have to have strong enforcement if we're ever to have a chance for comprehensive reform," Baker said.
Baker said the government is fixing E-Verify's flaws as it prepares to expand the initiative. Bush officials in early June proposed to triple the number of companies in the program, mandating participation by 169,000 federal contractors and requiring them for the first time to verify the eligibility of existing employees, not just new hires.
Enrollment in E-Verify has grown from 3,000 companies to 82,000 since it was expanded nationwide in 2003, but participation remains voluntary and covers 1 percent of an estimated 6 million
The proposed changes would double E-Verify's reach, covering more than 20 percent of
Business groups call the proposal an election-year power play that goes far beyond what Congress intended in 1996 when it created the voluntary system.
Although the government estimated the change will cover about 3 percent of the 153 million-member
"Without very significant changes, we would look at all options to stop a final rule, including a court challenge," said Randel K. Johnson, vice president and spokesman for the
Critics also say that E-Verify is not accurate enough, which could lead to discrimination against legal, foreign-born workers. Sorting out problems also threatens to swamp already overburdened Social Security administration offices that have their hands full tending to other work.
About 4.1 percent of 435 million Social Security records used by E-Verify contain errors -- or 17.8 million records -- the agency's Office of the Inspector General stated in June 2007. The system wrongly rejected foreign-born
Federal officials insist that E-Verify is ready for prime time. In early 2007, 94.2 percent of workers were automatically verified. Another half-percent were mistakenly rejected, but workers were eventually able to clear up the problem, usually within two days. The remaining 5.3 percent of workers walked away, which officials said suggested that they were illegal.
The system has fixed errors that arose when workers enter the country legally or become citizens without notifying Social Security. Many remaining mistakes involve people who fail to report name changes after marriage or divorce.
Homeland Security has begun requiring workers who are permanent residents or noncitizens to present photo IDs that can be compared with their images in federal records. However, E-Verify lacks a similar check for people posing as citizens. As a result the system is feeding a black market for selling Social Security numbers, some of them stolen, business owners said.
"I think the general public thinks it's an answer-all to this whole illegal-worker-identity theft problem and it's not," said Bernie Kohl Jr., owner of Angelica Nurseries in
Kohl said E-Verify also creates a temptation for employers to discriminate against hiring legal immigrants because they don't want to hassle with trying to sort out the system's mistakes.
Congress still must decide whether to extend E-Verify beyond November. While the House voted 407 to 2 to extend it for five years, it required Homeland Security to pay the bills for the increased workload on Social Security and ordered new studies about its effectiveness. The Senate has yet to vote. Meanwhile, 13 states require some use of E-Verify, while
AMERICAN (MS): Detainees say employer sealed off escape routes HATTIESBURG
"When we saw that immigration had us surrounded, it wasn't worth running," one woman, who didn't want her identity published, said through a translator. "All we could think about was what was going to happen to our children. We were worried about them."
The woman and another detainee, who also would not allow her name to be published, said one worker who tried to run was sprayed with Mace.
When the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents scrambled into the plant, they ordered workers to form two lines - one for Hispanics and one for non-Hispanics. They then separated the women from the men.
"They asked us questions like: 'Do you have children or a husband?' 'Where do you leave your children?' 'Have you been arrested before?'" one woman said. "They let us stay, but they put us on house arrest."
One of the many challenges the released detainees face is surviving with no income while waiting for a court date to determine if they will be deported, said the Rev. Roberto Velez, pastor of Peniel Christian Church in
"They don't know what they are going to do. They can't work," he said. "Their greatest worry is feeding their children and paying their rent when they don't have an income.
Velez plans to set up a food pantry and financial assistance for families affected by the raid based on donations from the community.
The mood of the Laurel Hispanic community in the aftermath of the raid is fear, said Emmanuel Gonzales, a Howard Industries welder with a work visa. Gonzales was present during the raid but let go after his documents were examined and found valid. Originally from Vera Cruz,
"People are scared. They are hiding," he said. "They won't send their children to school. They are worried that someone will come to their house and take them away. They can't get help because they are scared."
The fear is paralyzing, Gonzales said, even for him, a legal worker who has been employed at Howard Industries for six years.
"Right now I am looking for my friends," he said. "Legal or not legal, it doesn't matter to me. The Lord is big, and he takes care of us. Maybe today I'll find them."
August 27, 2008 - By EMMA JAMES
Inside, however, opinions were sharply divided on the possible consequences of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid on Howard Industries on Monday, which resulted in about 595 suspected illegal workers being detained.
"I have mixed feelings about the whole thing," said June Wheeler, owner of downtown boutique Elegant Evenings. "I think that Mexicans need to be able to get a job if they have a work visa. I feel sorry for the families, especially the children involved, but I believe that we don't need illegal workers here."
"I think that the raid is a good thing," said Asmar, who currently works for Immaculate Conception Elementary School as a cafeteria manager. "If you're illegal, you shouldn't be here. I think that there are plenty of people here capable of working that can take those jobs."
Signature Coffee House employee Shellie Musgrove agreed with the sentiment, adding that
The entire situation is unfortunate both for Howard Industries and the local economy, said Joe Michael Robertson, president of Catfish One. While Robertson believes that Howard Industries' hiring practices are solid, he said, that does not prevent the company from being scrutinized by the public or alleviate the fact that illegal workers were hired.
"It's unfortunate because Howard is one of the largest employers in this area and they have to hire workers to run the plant," he said. "I think that this is going to have a huge economic impact on the county and the state, as well as the humanitarian aspect, the families involved. I can see all sides of this. It is a very complex issue."
Most of the consequences that the raid will have on the
"The way to gauge what damage this is going to do to the county is to look at sales tax numbers," he said. "We probably won't know until the numbers become available in two months what consequences this ripple effect will have on the county."
One possible consequence, Stennett said, is a shortage of transformers from Howard in the event of a major storm.
"If a major hurricane hits, like with Gustav churning out in the Gulf, Howard provides transformers that rebuild our electric system," he said. "If the plant is down for a day, that affects production, which will affect supply. That affects you and me and every home in the county."
By ED KEMP
August 27, 2008
This time the scene wasn't a swarm of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers heavily armed and donning flak jackets. It was a line of job applicants, eager to take advantage of the sudden surge of job openings at the plant located in
ICE agents on Monday seized 595 plant workers suspected of being in the country illegally. Several plant workers, who did not identify themselves, said Tuesday they were working full shifts and attempting to return to being fully operational in the wake of the sudden loss of co-workers.
They added that it was an open secret that so many of their co-workers were suspected to be illegal. One worker said of the raid, "We suspected it was coming."
It's an idea that maddens Samantha Stevens, 18, of
"We were here first. It's not fair for them to have a job," she explained.
Her friend Jasmine Gallaspy, 19, of Bay Springs said illegal workers have unfair advantages.
"They don't have to pay taxes or anything," she said.
Others also welcomed the vacancies left by the detained workers.
Gwendolyn Watkins, 40, of Stonewall, said she drove 40 miles to
She now hopes to catch on at Howard, and stated that, while "everyone needs a job," she believes that legal workers should be the priority."
"If they had a green card, it would be different," she explained.
But for Samantha Sanchez, the issue wasn't quite so clear-cut. She filled out her application at the plant, and, in the process, revisited a scene that caused her anguish the previous day. Her husband Juan Sanchez, a welder, was one of the workers detained in Monday's raid, and she hasn't spoken to him since he called her on his cell phone Monday morning.
It's painful to her for a couple reasons. She said her husband, who has been living in the
She also spoke to the issue of fairness that has the government secreting her husband and father of her four children from her.
"He doesn't drink; he doesn't smoke. He takes care of his kids," she said.
As to why she would return so soon to this place, Sanchez, who's currently unemployed and had previously worked at Howard as a coil winder, said it comes down to dollars and cents.
"I have to feed my family," she explained.
Marbin Castillo, 22, of Magnolia wouldn't allow personal connections to inform his perspective on the situation. Castillo came to the
He said he was saddened by the way Monday's raid divided area families, including several he knows.
"These family have kids who now don't have a daddy or mommy," he said.
But he also feels that illegal workers take jobs from people, like himself, who have followed the correct procedures in immigrating to the
"I don't blame nobody for trying to make money. But there are people in
He also expressed his pragmatic view regarding the swift turnabout that finds him applying for positions safely filled just 36 hours before.
"I can't do nothing about it. It's the law."
DES MOINES REGISTER: School enrollment dips only slightly after raid
Enrollment at Postville's public schools has barely dipped, despite concern that last May's immigration raid would lead to wholesale losses of students.
Superintendent Darwin Winke said 532 students showed up for classes last week, the first week of school. That number was down just five from last year's enrollment, he said.
Many of the hundreds of illegal immigrants swept up in the raid at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant were parents with children in the school district. Although some of those children are
Winke said several dozen children did wind up leaving town after the raid. "We were probably down about 40 kids, and we probably picked up about 35 kids," he said. The biggest movements appeared to be among elementary school-age children, he said.
The enrollment number has financial consequences. The loss of a single student would cost the district about $5,300 in annual state aid. The figure would be about $6,500 for a student who needs help learning English.
Agriprocessors is Postville's dominant employer, and the company's managers are not finished replacing all the workers who were arrested or fled.
Winke said the replacement work force has included several families with school-age children. An exception has been the recent wave of Somali refugees starting work at the plant, Winke said. Most of those immigrants appear to have left their families in their previous hometown of
A Catholic Church official who has helped many Agriprocessors workers said she was pleasantly surprised to hear that the schools' enrollment had barely dropped. "I think everybody in town thought they'd be down more than that," said Sister Mary McCauley.
McCauley speculated that the trend is partly due to some former teen-age Agriprocessors workers who returned to classes now that government officials have cracked down on the use of underage employees at the plant. Plant executives have denied knowingly hiring underage workers, and they have said they applaud efforts to keep minors out of the plant.
McCauley said it's too soon to tell whether school enrollment will remain steady. She said some immigrant families are still trying to decide whether to stay in Postville. Later this week, she said, a group of 13 people, including several children, is scheduled to head home to