Things That Matter

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

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officials detained 97 undocumented people, on April 5, at a meatpacking plant in a rural town in Tennessee. According to some news reports, the raid in Bean Station, Tennessee, may be the largest detainment by ICE since the George W. Bush Administration.

In an email to mitu, an ICE spokesperson said they couldn’t disclose the size of the raid. They did, however, provide context as to what led to the raid at the meatpacking plant.

“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, and the Tennessee Highway Patrol, executed a federal criminal search warrant at Southeastern Provision. During that search, HSI encountered 97 individuals who are subject to removal from the United States. Ten of those encountered were arrested on federal criminal charges, one was arrested on state charges and 86 were arrested on administrative charges. Of the 86 administrative arrests placed in removal proceedings, ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) placed 54 in detention and 32 were released from custody.”

According to Knox News, Southeastern Provisions — the meatpacking plant in Grainger County — has avoided paying taxes for more than a decade. They also report that the corporation has avoided paying $2.5 million in payroll taxes, which means they paid their undocumented employees in cash only.

Various communities and organizations in the surrounding parts of Tennessee have rallied to support the families left behind.

CREDIT: Facebook/Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition [TIRRC]
Aside from tax fraud, Knox News also reports that the meatpacking plant had several sanitation violations. These violations affected employees and the products. Organizations such as the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition have been raising funds and goods to help the families left behind. Many families lost their sole providers.

“Children were left without primary caretakers, and local churches have provided sanctuary for dozens of others,” TIRRC said in a press release.

“Our communities have lived under intense fear since the Trump administration began, and this raid – coupled with local law enforcement involvement – will send shockwaves across the country,” Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of TIRRC said in a press release.

Raul, a 16-year-old impacted by the raid, lost his mom, uncle, and aunt in the raid.

Raul Reflects on Tennessee Raid

Raul is 16. Instead of spending this weekend hanging out with friends, he's figuring out how to tell his two-year-old sister that their mom, uncle, and aunt might be deported. "To everyone else whose families are in there with mine, I'd tell them to fight this."Learn more: https://advancementproject.org/news/administration-criminalizes-immigrants-tennessee-raid/

Posted by Advancement Project (DC) on Monday, April 9, 2018

Raul talked about how scared he is in this situation. He also talked about having to tell his 2-year-old sister.

“To everyone else whose families are in there with mine, I’d tell them to fight this,” Raul said.

The organization has started a collection of funds, goods, and clothing for the families.

Posted by Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition [TIRRC] on Friday, April 6, 2018

If you’d like to make a donation to their GoFundme page, click here.

There will be a prayer vigil for the detainees tonight.


READ: Six Children Have Been Orphaned After A Couple Died In A Car Accident While Trying To Flee ICE Officers

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In Bombshell Report, ICE Agents Are Accused of ‘Torturing’ African Asylum-Seekers to Get Them to Sign Their Own Deportation Documents

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In Bombshell Report, ICE Agents Are Accused of ‘Torturing’ African Asylum-Seekers to Get Them to Sign Their Own Deportation Documents

Photo: Bryan Cox/Getty Images

A bombshell report published in The Guardian alleges that ICE officers are using torture to force Cameroonian asylum seekers to sign their own deportation orders. The report paints an even starker picture of Immigration and Customs Enforcement–an agency that is already widely criticized as corrupt and inhumane.

The deportation documents the immigrants have been forced to sign are called the Stipulated Orders of Removal. The documents waive asylum seekers’ rights to further immigration hearings and mean they consent to being deported.

The asylum seekers allege that the torture in ICE custody consisted of choking, beating, pepper-spraying, breaking fingers, and threats on their lives.

“I refused to sign,” recounted one Cameroonian asylum-seeker to The Guardian. “[The ICE officer] pressed my neck into the floor. I said, ‘Please, I can’t breathe.’ I lost my blood circulation. Then they took me inside with my hands at my back where there were no cameras.”

He continued: “They put me on my knees where they were torturing me and they said they were going to kill me. They took my arm and twisted it. They were putting their feet on my neck…They did get my fingerprint on my deportation document and took my picture.” Other witnesses recount similar violent experiences.

Experts believe that the escalation of deportations is directly related to the upcoming election and the possibility that ICE might soon be operated under a different administration. The theory is that ICE is coercively deporting “key witnesses” in order to “silence survivors and absolve ICE of legal liability.”

“In late September, early October of this year, we began to receive calls on our hotline from Cameroonian and Congolese immigrants detained in Ice prisons across the country. And they were being subjected to threats of deportation, often accompanied by physical abuse,” said Christina Fialho, executive director of Freedom for Immigrants, to The Guardian.

Many of the Cameroonians who are in the U.S. to seek asylum have legitimate claims to danger back in their home countries. Many of these Cameroonians come from an English-speaking minority in Cameroon that are violently target by the government there–some have died. The violence has been condemned by The United Nations and Amnesty International.

As with many immigrant stories of people who are seeking asylum, these immigrants’ lives are in danger in their home country. They are coming to the United States for a better life. But instead, they are faced with the agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, whom they claim brutally mistreat them.

According to report, the U.S. is deporting entire airplanes full of asylum-seekers back to their home countries–deportations that have not been given due process and have been authorized under duress.

An ICE spokesperson contacted by The Guardian called the reports “sensationalist” and “unsubstantiated” while roundly refuting the claims. “Ice is firmly committed to the safety and welfare of all those in its custody. Ice provides safe, humane, and appropriate conditions of confinement for individuals detained in its custody,” she said.

Read the entire report here.

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Even Though We’re In The Midst Of A Pandemic, ICE Just Conducted The Largest Immigration Sweep In Months

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Even Though We’re In The Midst Of A Pandemic, ICE Just Conducted The Largest Immigration Sweep In Months

Gregory Bull / Getty Images

Although communities across the country – particularly the Latinx community – continue to be ravaged by Coronavirus, U.S. immigration officials are still enforcing inhumane immigration policies.

In cities across the U.S., Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials made thousands of arrests over recent weeks. These arrests are part of the largest immigration sweep since the pandemic began and mean that more people will be put in danger as they’re forced into detention centers which have become a hotbed of Coronavirus infections.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers took thousands of people into custody in 24 cities across the country.

A six-week ICE operation resulted in more than 2,000 arrests of undocumented immigrants, in 24 cities across the U.S. The operation, which ran from July to August, led to arrests in communities across the country, CBS News reports.

Officials charge that the enforcement efforts were focused on those with criminal convictions and charges, but they admit that there were also arrests of some undocumented immigrants with clean records.

As part of the operation, ICE agents made “at-large” arrests, which could take place at residences, worksites and traffic stops, across the country, including in large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, where the ICE field office apprehended the most immigrants. ICE said the operation targeted undocumented immigrants and others subject to deportation who had been charged or convicted of a crime involving a victim.

Asked by CBS News how the recent arrests of immigrants without convictions or charges conformed with that announcement, Henry Lucero, ICE’s executive associate director, offered a clarification of the so-called “enforcement posture.”

“We never said we were going to stop arresting individuals,” Lucero said in a call with reporters. “We said we were going to prioritize and focus on those that are public safety threats. And that’s exactly what we did during this operation.”

He added, “We never stated we’re … going to stop arresting any type of immigration violator. We continue to arrest immigration violators. We use discretion when appropriate. That will remain in effect until further notice.”

Although ICE says it’s limited its enforcement activities because of the pandemic, this is the largest sweep in months.

Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

It took awhile for ICE to finally adjust its enforcement posture once the pandemic hit, but ICE did finally announce certain changes. The agency said it’s limited its operations to avoid outbreaks among detainees – and the hard numbers to paint this picture. So far this fiscal year, ICE has made 94,5000 arrests inside communities, compared to 143,000 at this time last year.

In March, ICE announced that it would focus its enforcement efforts on those with certain criminal records and those deemed a public threat.

ICE and its enforcement priorities under President Trump have become a focal point of the nation’s broader debate around immigration, with some Democratic lawmakers calling for the agency to be abolished. Advocates for immigrants have also criticized ICE’s response to the spread of the coronavirus inside its sprawling immigration detention system, which is the largest in the world. 

Meanwhile, many of these migrants will be forced into detention centers that are becoming hubs of Covid-19 infections.

Credit: Gregory Bull / Getty Images

Already the 2020 fiscal year (which ends September 30) is tied with 2006 for the highest number of migrant deaths in ICE custody – the vast majority of whom have died of Covid-19 related complications. Just this week, a 50-year-old man from Honduras became the system’s latest victim and the 19th to die so far.

Meanwhile, more than 5,300 immigrants have tested for the Coronavirus while in custody. That number doesn’t take into account the risks fro communities and employees.

ICE says that they’re making adjustments, pointing out that the agency’s detainee population has plummeted during the pandemic, declining to roughly 21,000 this week. However, raids like the ones over the last few weeks will likely increase that population.

“There is still a pandemic raging,” Reichlin-Melnick told CBS News. “ICE should not be engaging in large-scale enforcement actions that send people to detention centers where the virus is rampant.”

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