Things That Matter

A Woman Has Come Forward To Accuse An ICE Agent Of Rape And Threatening Her With Deportation

A Honduran immigrant, identified in the lawsuit only as Jane Doe, sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement along with former ICE agent Wilfredo Rodriguez for repeatedly raping her over the course of seven years.

The woman, living in Connecticut, claims that an immigration agent threatened her with deportation if she refused to have sex with him. The ICE agent allegedly, repeatedly raped her as frequently as four times a week, and impregnated her three times. The woman is seeking $10 million in damages. 

Lawyers say the woman was essentially coerced by the ICE agent. 

“My only comment is that my client had a choice, cooperate with ICE or be deported with her family,” George Kramer, the woman’s lawyer, told KTLA.

The woman hopes to change the treatment of immigrants who choose to cooperate with ICE. 

“She remains in a very fragile psychological state. She is not only seeking compensation for the physical and emotional damage she suffered but to change the way those who are cooperating with ICE are treated by those in a position of power and who often wield total control over the ability to remain in the United States, Kramer said. 

The agent allegedly coerced her to become an informant.

An ICE spokesperson said the accused Wilfredo Rodriguez no longer works for the agency. According to the woman, she first met Rodriguez in 2006 after her brother was detained for entering the United States illegally. When Rodriguez discovered she was also undocumented, he forced the woman to become an informant and help the agency find undocumented criminals to deport, the lawsuit claims. The woman says she helped them arrest three undocumented immigrants who had stabbed her husband. 

The ICE agent repeatedly raped the woman, according to the lawsuit.

While trying to locate someone in 2007, Rodriguez asked the woman to meet him at a motel where he tried to have sex with her, according to the lawsuit; when she refused, he covered her mouth and held her at gunpoint while forcing himself on her. Jane Doe alleges she became pregnant by Rodriguez in 2007, 2009, and in 2013. Each time she had an abortion, she says, and Rodriguez paid for only one.

The lawsuit states that he made the woman perform lewd sexual acts and “abhorrent sexual behavior” where he referred to himself as the “wolf” and routinely threatened to murder her and her family.  

At one point around 2010, the suit alleges, Rodriguez’s superiors became suspicious of his treatment of immigrants. Jane Doe was called into the ICE office where agents told her not to have contact with any officers outside of the office or outside of typical business hours. Rodriguez continued to contact and harass the woman, according to the lawsuit. 

In 2014, the woman was so scared of Rodriguez that at one point he called her demanding sex. She says she was so terrified she fell off a ladder after hanging up. She seriously injured her neck, back, and ribs which required surgery. 

The woman finally came forward when her father began to fear his own deportation. While filing for his asylum, she told her story, and an agent told her to consult an attorney. 

This isn’t the first time ICE agents have been accused of sexual abuse.

An ICE detention center said it was not responsible if staff abused detainees. In 2014, a 19-year-old asylum seeker from Honduras was staying at a Pennsylvania detention center with her 3-year-old son. The woman, known as “E.D.” was sexually assaulted by a guard. 

“I didn’t know how to refuse because he told me that I was going to be deported,” she told the New York Times. “I was at a jail and he was a migration officer. It’s like they order you to do something and you have to do it.” 

According to the ACLU, the employee pled guilty to “criminal institutional sexual assault under Pennsylvania law,” however the “defendants contend that they should not be liable for any constitutional violations.” The defendants claimed that the sexual abuse was “consensual” because it occurred in an immigration detention center, not a jail or prison. 

E.D. is among thousands of immigrants who claim they were sexually abused while in ICE custody over the last 10 years. ICE has reported 1,310 claims of sexual abuse against detainees between 2013 and 2017. Watchdog groups estimate that sexual abuse actually occurs at much higher rates. 

“Rather than meaningfully addressing these endemic problems in immigration detention, the Trump administration continues to aggressively target immigrants and asylum seekers by stripping away legal protections, ramping up enforcement, and expanding immigration detention,” according to the ACLU. 

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Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

Things That Matter

Smugglers Are Tagging U.S.-Bound Migrants With Color Coded Wristbands And Here’s Why

As the United States experiences a so-called surge of people attempting to enter the U.S., human traffickers and smugglers are working double time as they try to capitalize on the increased movements.

Cartels and human traffickers have long run their smuggling operations like a legitimate business but they’ve only got more advanced in how they move people across the border region and one key tool: color-coded bracelets. These bracelets almost act as passports for migrants to safely cross a cartel’s territory without interference or threats of violence. But what do these bracelets mean and how are they fueling the problem of human trafficking?

Plastic bracelets are being used by cartels to identify migrants in their territory. 

U.S. border agents carried out nearly 100,000 apprehensions or rapid expulsions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in February, which is the highest monthly total since mid-2019. With the increase in people attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, cartels are managing this migration of people over their territory and trying to make money off the humanitarian crisis. 

Many cartels have implemented a color-coded bracelet system that identifies those migrants who have paid for permission to cross their territory. In the Rio Grande Valley sector, Border Patrol agents have recently encountered immigrants wearing the bracelets during several apprehensions, Matthew Dyman, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told Reuters.

The “information on the bracelets represents a multitude of data that is used by smuggling organizations, such as payment status or affiliation with smuggling groups,” Dyman said.

The color-coded system isn’t totally understood.

Credit: ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images

Migrants can pay thousands of dollars for the journey to the United States and human smugglers have to pay off drug cartels to move people through parts of Mexico. This is a money-making operation and cartels want to pay close attention to who has paid. The bracelets may just be a new way to keep track.

Criminal groups operating in northern Mexico, however, have long used systems to log which migrants have already paid for the right to be in gang-controlled territory, as well as for the right to cross the border into the United States, according to migration experts. In fact, in 2019, smugglers kept tabs on rapidly arriving Central American migrants by double checking the names and IDs of migrants before they got off the bus to make sure they had paid. 

One man, a migrant in Reynosa – across the border from McAllen, Texas – who declined to give his name for fear of retaliation, showed Reuters a picture of a purple wristband he was wearing. He told them that he had paid $500 to a criminal group in the city after he arrived from Honduras to ensure that he wasn’t kidnapped or extorted. He said once migrants or their smugglers have paid for the right to cross the river, which is also controlled by criminal groups, they receive another bracelet.

“This way we’re not in danger, neither us nor the ‘coyote,’” he told Reuters.

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Tate’s Cookies Threatened to Report Undocumented Workers to ICE If They Unionized

Culture

Tate’s Cookies Threatened to Report Undocumented Workers to ICE If They Unionized

Photo via chocolleto/Instagram

Fans of the crispy, buttery Tate’s cookies might be sad when they hear this news. According to current employees, the popular cookie business has been threatening employees who are trying to unionize.

According to multiple employees, Tate’s cookies threatened to contact ICE if workers vote to unionize next month.

According to Gothamist, most of Tate Bake Shop’s 432 employees are undocumented workers. But the National Labor Relations Act says that undocumented workers have a lawful right to unionize.

The powerhouse baked goods company Mondelēz International owns Tate’s cookies. Additionally, Mondelēz owns other popular brands like Oreo and Chips Ahoy. Local union leaders have called the company “anti-union on steroids”.

Once Tate’s cookies heard rumblings of their workers unionizing, however, they hired an anti-labor consultant. The consultant, Carlos Flores, brags on LinkedIn about keeping businesses “labor free”.

“They began threatening people based on their immigration status, telling them that if their documents are not in order and they attempted to join the labor union they would get deported,” said Eastern States’ Union president, Cosmo Lubrano.

The consultant allegedly told workers that he would review their documentation to see if “everything was in order”. If it wasn’t, he said ICE might “send them back”.

“Just because a worker wants to organize, wants to have representation doesn’t mean a company should make their life miserable,” said Julio, an undocumented worker, to The New York Times.

Tate’s cookies employees only began to discuss the possibility of unionizing when the pandemic hit. Workers felt that the cookie company might not protect them should they fall ill.

“We were in the heart of the pandemic at that time and they didn’t know any of the rules that applied to them,” said Anthony Miranti, an Eastern States’ union delegate.

“Will they get paid if they have to self-quarantine? How do they get safety equipment? They were telling us about how they’re all at minimum wage and needed more paid time off and there was just nobody to listen to their problems.”

Officially, Mondelēz denies all claims or threatening workers. They released a statement saying: “Any allegation that the company has violated any aspect of the National Labor Relations Act is untrue. Tate’s prides itself on treating all its employees with respect, and we have fostered over many years an inclusive, supportive, caring work environment and culture with our employees.”

Despite the threats to their livelihood, many workers still believe unionizing will ultimately be beneficial.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who work in union shops. They say things are better,” said an undocumented worker by the name of Catalina to the New York Times. “Why not give this an opportunity?”

As Miranti says, “I think the workers that produce these products should be able to put their heads down on their pillows at night and know their job is secured, that their family has the best coverage out there, that they’ll have a pension to retire on someday.”

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