Things That Matter

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

Trump Administration Hikes Up DACA Renewal Fee

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Trump Administration Hikes Up DACA Renewal Fee

Juan Escalante @JuanSaaa / Twitter

A new proposal brought forth by immigration officials might hike up the cost of immigrants entering the United States as children. According to a New York Times report, the Trump administration proposal would increase fees for applicants by more than 60 percent and handover more than $200 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

On Friday, the Trump administration proposed increasing a “range of fees” tacked onto applications for those seeking legal immigration and citizenship.

If it is sent into motion, the proposal would increase citizenship fees by more than 60 percent. Under the new plan, fees for applicants would skyrocket from $725  to $1,170. The proposal would also allow the government to charge asylum seekers $50 for applications and $490 for work permits. Such a rule would make the United States one out of four countries in the world to force asylum seekers to pay for applications. Australia, Fiji and Iran all charge for asylum protection. 

If instituted, the proposal would be yet another roadblock implemented by the Trump administration to restrict immigration through legal means.

Over the past few months, immigrants and immigration advocates have seen similar attempts at hacking through the rights of immigrants before. Recently the Trump administration issued a series of policies that work to withhold permanent residency to immigrants in the United States have been deemed incapable of financially supporting themselves. They have also blocked entry to immigrants applying for visas on the basis of health insurance status. On October 4, 2019, Trump published a Presidential Proclamation that prevents entry to visa applicants are unable to provide proof of their ability to obtain health insurance within 30 days of entering the United States. 

“Healthcare providers and taxpayers bear substantial costs in paying for medical expenses incurred by people who lack health insurance or the ability to pay for their healthcare.  Hospitals and other providers often administer care to the uninsured without any hope of receiving reimbursement from them,” the proclamation read. “The costs associated with this care are passed on to the American people in the form of higher taxes, higher premiums, and higher fees for medical services.  In total, uncompensated care costs — the overall measure of unreimbursed services that hospitals give their patients — have exceeded $35 billion in each of the last 10 years.”

 Ur Jaddou, former chief counsel at USCIS under the Obama administration called the new policy, “one more way under the administration that they are making legal immigration unattainable.”

“Currently, USCIS is conducting its biennial fee review, as required under the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990, to study the agency’s revenue, costs and needs,” a spokesperson for USCIS told BuzzFeed News. “As always, USCIS will publicly communicate information on its fee review through a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) published in the federal register, should a decision be made to adjust its fees. No determination has yet been made.”

Immigration advocates on social media have been quick to slam the proposal as unfair. 

“The proposal to get rid of fee waivers is a whole statement and stand against the poor. From the public charge stuff to this. Worse thing too is this is how people actually feel,” film director Angy Rivera wrote in a thread that lambasted the policy. “The Department of Homeland Security’s plan will be open to public comment for 30 days starting Nov. 14. Make sure to flood them!”

Other users who quick to underline the significance of taking the funds from these applicants and transfer them to  Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Trump administration plans to “transfer money raised through the new proposed fee schedule to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency under DHS that carries out deportations, workplace investigations and other immigration enforcement actions. The money would be used to root out any potential fraud in future applications for citizenship, green cards, asylum and other immigration benefits.” 

“At this point I feel like they are just putting numbers in hat, and tossing it around. This is money we use to live and maintain our families, minimum wage ass job won’t cover this. This is just business to make money, y’all taking advantage of us,” Cristal Ruiz Rodriguez wrote in a tweet.

There’s no doubt that the Trump administration’s latest attack on immigrants is a wealth tax.

The Trump administration’s new policy would not be applicable to immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border and asking for asylum. 

Melissa Rodgers is the director of programs for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center and told the Washington Street Journal that the proposed fees would be unaffordable for those who could have had a chance at citizenship.

“This is a wealth tax on becoming a U.S. citizen,” Rodgers said in a statement. “It’s part and parcel of the assault on the naturalization process.”

Latin America’s First Indigenous President Is Forced To Resign After Weeks Of Protests And Irregular Election Results

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Latin America’s First Indigenous President Is Forced To Resign After Weeks Of Protests And Irregular Election Results

José Luis Rodriguez / Getty

Protests are occurring throughout Latin America as calls for environmental and economic justice strengthen from Chile and Brazil to Venezuela and Ecuador. Now, Bolivia has become the latest flash point for the growing widespread movements across the region.

What started as a protest against President Evo Morales seeking an additional presidential term (he was constitutionally term-limited) has resulted in his abrupt resignation and in what many are calling a coup.

President Morales resigned the presidency after he lost support from the Bolivian police and military.

Bolivia’s political crisis deepened Sunday as President Evo Morales resigned amid allegations of “serious irregularities” during last month’s election and pressure from the country’s armed forces.

Morales faced mounting protests in the aftermath of the October 20 vote as demonstrators and the Bolivian opposition accused electoral authorities of manipulating the vote count in favor of the incumbent. He denied the allegations and declared himself the winner, but was eventually forced to resign

But what led to his resignation?

In the hours after polls closed, preliminary results showed Morales slightly ahead of his opponent, former President Carlos Mesa. But the opposition and international observers became suspicious after election officials stopped the count for about 24 hours without an explanation. When the count resumed, Morales’ lead had jumped significantly.

Electoral monitors from the Organization of American States (OAS) published a report Sunday alleging irregularities that impacted the official vote count.

In the aftermath of the report, Morales initially promised new elections would be held and the country’s electoral council replaced. However just hours later the president had resigned after the head of the Bolivian Armed Forces, Cmdr. Williams Kaliman, asked Morales to step down in order to restore peace and stability.

The decision follows weeks of raucous anti-government protests across the country. 

Demonstrators have burned down the headquarters of local election offices, set up blockades, and paraded a mayor barefoot through the streets after cutting her hair and showering her in paint.

Many are calling this an outright coup committed by the military and US-backed politicians.

The international reaction has been swift and vocal.

On Monday, Mr Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous leader, struck a defiant note on Twitter, saying that “the Bolivian people have never abandoned me and I will never abandon them”. He has also said that he was the victim of a “civic coup”.

International allies of Mr Morales echoed his characterisation of what had happened. The Russian foreign ministry said that “the wave of violence unleashed by the opposition didn’t allow the presidential mandate of Evo Morales to be completed”.

Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard said that events in Bolivia constituted “a coup because the army requested the resignation of the president, and that violates the constitutional order of that country”.

Spain also expressed its concern over the role of Bolivia’s army, saying that “this intervention takes us back to moments in the past history of Latin America”.

But what do Bolivians actually think of all of this?

Mr. Morales, a former coca farmer, was first elected in 2006. He has earned praise for fighting poverty and improving Bolivia’s economy but drew controversy by defying constitutional term limits to run for a fourth term in October’s election, which is alleged to have been rife with irregularities.

The biggest criticism of Evo Morales was his lack of respect for Bolivia’s democracy – accused of overstaying his welcome and refusing to step down. 

But the fact that the military has called the shots on the president standing down does not do much for Bolivia’s democracy either. 

Now Evo Morales has gone, there is a power vacuum. Increasing numbers of his Mas party are resigning, and it feels like there is a need for retribution – for Evo Morales and his people to pay the price for the mistakes they made while in power.

His supporters have called this a coup – his detractors the end of tyranny. The priority now is to choose an interim leader, call new elections and bring a polarised Bolivia together or face yet more unrest and violence in the coming weeks.