politics

Advocacy Groups Suing ICE For Mass Raid In Tennessee, Claiming They Violated Workers’ Constitutional Rights

Last year, we reported about a massive immigration raid that took place at a slaughterhouse in the small town of Bean Station in Tennessee. The raid, conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was poignant because many of the detained workers lived in Bean Station with their families. The entire community was affected by this raid. The town rallied to help these families and children as one, or both parents, had been taken in by ICE. Today advocates of these people say this action by immigration was wrong and are taking legal action against them.

Two advocacy groups and a law firm are suing ICE alleging that they violated the constitutional rights of the workers in Bean Station, Tennessee.

Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition [TIRRC] / Facebook

The National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), and the law firm of Sherrard, Roe, Voigt & Harbison announced that they had filed a lawsuit on behalf of seven workers that were detained on April 2018 at the meat processing plant.

According to SPLC, the raid in Bean Station was the first large workplace immigration raid in nearly a decad. ICE detained approximately 100 Latino workers, “violating their rights against illegal seizures and to equal protection under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.”

“When a raid of this scale happens in our communities, it’s like a bomb goes off,” Stephanie Teatro, executive co-director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, said according to NBC News.

In the aftermath of the raid an estimated 600 children didn’t go to school on the following day either because their parent had been detained, or they were fearful of what could happen to them.

Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition [TIRRC] / Facebook

“I have lived in Tennessee for 12 years. This is my home. My family is here. My friends are here. I have land here. This is where my dreams have taken root,” Isabel Zelaya, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said in a press release. “On the morning of the raid, I was working at my normal station in the processing area when armed officers entered the plant. As the officers lined us up, I offered to show them my documentation to work in this country, but they handcuffed me anyway, detained me, and took me to the armory. After several hours, I was finally released. I am part of this lawsuit because I want justice for myself and my coworkers who were denied our constitutional rights, as well as our humanity.”

Out of the 97 people that were detained that day, 40 have since been released on bond, five are in federal custody, six have already been deported, and 12 left the country voluntarily.

National Immigration Law Center / Facebook

The SPLC reports that ICE agents detained every “worker who looked Latino in the plant without regard to citizenship or documentation,” which is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Furthermore, white workers at the plant weren’t questioned or harassed at all.

“Many workers weren’t asked about documentation until hours into the raid. By then, many had already been traumatized, handcuffed, and denied communication with attorneys or family members — or access to sanitary facilities or critical medication — and taken to a holding facility.”

“What happened in East Tennessee was law enforcement overreach, plain and simple, Meredith Stewart, senior supervising attorney for the SPLC, said. “We as a nation have a shared set of ideals, rooted in the Bill of Rights: we have a right to be free from racial profiling and unlawful arrests. If we are not willing to uphold those ideals for everyone in this country, then we are all at risk of losing our rights. We look forward to our clients having their day in court.”

ICE told NBC News that they conducted themselves “in full compliance with federal law and agency policy.”

READ: ICE Arrested 97 Undocumented Immigrants In A Massive Raid On A Tennessee Meatpacking Plant

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