August 26, 2009
PHOENIX—The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) and UFCW Local 99 today held a community forum with Arizona workers to discuss how a failed national immigration policy has caused widespread confusion and fear among workers and their families . At a community meeting today, UFCW leaders discussed the country’s failed immigration system, which has resulted in massive disruption of economics and business operations. Today’s event is part of a national series of community outreach events designed to bring people together, celebrate unity, and defend the rights of legal residents, citizens and workers.
“We have seen federal agents routinely violate the 4th Amendment rights of workers during massive workplace raids across the country,” said Mark Lauritsen, UFCW International Vice President. “Until national leaders fix our country’s immigration system, our local communities will be torn apart, and the constitutional rights of citizens and legal residents will be routinely violated. Our country desperately requires a framework for moving forward, humanely and comprehensively, to fix our immigration system. Broken enforcement is exacerbating a broken immigration system. We stand with the Phoenix community to question whether local police officers will be able to enforce immigration laws without exposing the city residents to racial profiling, discrimination and violating civil rights.”
Among those who spoke at the meeting were UFCW workers who—one year ago, on December 12, 2006 (the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a Mexican religious celebration)—were illegally detained at meatpacking plants in five states in workplace raids carried out by federal agents at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). More than 12,000 meatpacking workers—including citizens, legal residents and immigrants in the process of legalization—were swept up in ICE raids at six meat packing plants. The UFCW represents workers at five of the plants, including Worthington, Minn.; Greeley, Colo.; Cactus, Tex.; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Grand Island, Neb.
“It is disgraceful how law enforcement officials violate basic human rights just because our government cannot fix the immigration system,” said Maria Acosta of Phoenix, who works at Food City grocery store.
“I was interrogated and detained for hours just because federal agents thought I was breaking immigration laws,” said Pasqual Talamantes, a UFCW meatpacking worker from Grand Island, Neb. “They were handcuffing us and holding guns. I told them I was a citizen, born here in the United States, and they did not believe me.”
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For more information: www.ufcw.org/icemisconduct.cfm