• Background Image

    News and Updates


April 30, 2008


DES MOINES – A recently formed national commission examining raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents held its third regional hearing today at Plymouth Church in Des Moines, Iowa.

“The goal of today’s hearing is to shine a spotlight on the government’s activities,” said commission member and former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack. “Our Constitution is at stake, and if our government can’t following the Constitution, that is a serious problem that must be addressed.”

The hearing focused on the impact of workplace immigration raids in Marshalltown, Iowa, Grand Island, Neb., and Greeley, Colo., and examined how the execution of these raids is part of a wider pattern of ICE misconduct occurring across the country.

“”This is our third regional hearing and the fact that at each one we are hearing similar testimony of heavy handed tactics by immigration agents, as well as examples of clear violations of workers’ constitutional rights, is deeply troubling and points to the systemic and recurring nature of these injustices,” said Joseph T. Hansen, founding chairman of the National Commission and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union president.

The hearing in Des Moines was part of a series of regional public meetings that the commission is holding to explore the execution, implications and ramifications of workplace immigration enforcement. The commission will also look into claims that ICE has engaged in violations of the 4th amendment.  After a thorough investigation, the commission will produce a public report that highlights its findings and makes recommendations about how the system should be reformed.

“Many of the misdeeds that we have heard from occurred to workers who are in this country legally; U.S. citizens who have lived in the United States their whole lives, people who were born here or who immigrated properly to this country,” added Vilsack. “That is what concerns me, and why it is critical that these activities are exposed and adequately addressed.”

To date, ICE has refused to address the concerns raised by the witnesses who have testified.

“This commission has heard from workers, from religious leaders, from elected officials at every level of government and from psychological and legal experts,” added Hansen. “For ICE to try to ignore the pain these workers have gone through, as well as the testimony of respected leaders and elected officials about the devastation and destruction these raids cause families and communities, is simply unacceptable. We will continue to draw public attention to their actions until the system is appropriately reformed.”

The national commission was created in response to a series of raids that took place at meatpacking plants in America’s heartland.  On December 12, 2006, thousands of innocent workers were detained at meatpacking plants in six states during workplace raids carried out by federal ICE agents. The UFCW represents workers at five of the plants, including Worthington, Minn.; Greeley, Colo.; Cactus, Tex.; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Grand Island, Neb.

On September 12, 2007, the UFCW filed a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security and ICE to protect the 4th amendment rights of all Americans and enjoin the government from illegally arresting and detaining workers, including U.S. citizens and legal residents, while at their workplace.

In addition to Vilsack and Hansen, a broad group of leading policy experts serves on the commission. The commission held its first hearing in Washington, D.C., on February 25, 2008, and the second hearing in Boston on April 7, 2008. Future hearings are scheduled in Atlanta, Ga., for May 29, 2008.

Civilian-driven commissions have played an important role in U.S. history. When African-Americans were arrested, beaten and killed during the civil rights movement, the tragedies fueled the McCone Commission in 1965 and the National Advisory Commission in 1968.

When Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps during World War II, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians was established to investigate these unacceptable civil rights violations.

Citizen review panels are often created to help renew a commitment to rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, especially when those rights are violated by local police brutality.


August 16, 2007

Workers Decry Abusive ICE Misconduct

Hold First National Meeting on ICE Misconduct and Violations of 4th Amendment Rights

December Ice Raids Subjected Thousands of UFCW Members and U.S. citizens to Mass Detention and Other Constitutional Rights Abuses

Omaha, Neb. — Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) today joined with community groups, civil rights leaders and immigrant rights activists to condemn abuse and misconduct by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Across the country, ICE enforcement teams have used unwarranted physical force to illegally detain workers in misguided attempts at enforcing failed U.S. immigration policies.

The national meeting today was held to hear workers’ testimony, many of whom were illegally held against their will, denied access to telephones, attorneys and even bathrooms.

“”The excessive show of force—the abusive conduct, the disregard for individual rights and the lack of concern for working families—it would make you think this incident occurred in a foreign country or in a distant era,”” said UFCW International President Joe Hansen in convening the meeting. “”But, unfortunately, the ICE raids happened in America’s heartland in our times. It happened to America’s workers—to our brothers and sisters. It happened to our fellow Americans, native born and immigrant.””

Workers were denied access to telephones, bathrooms and legal counsel. Citizens and legal residents were denied the opportunity to retrieve documents to establish their legal status. Some were handcuffed and held for hours. Others were shipped out on buses.

During the raids, families, schools and day care centers could not be contacted to make arrangements for the children of detained workers. Families were left divided—not knowing where or when they might see a missing family member again.

“”Our union is standing up and speaking out about our members’ constitutional rights,”” said Hansen. “”They were illegally detained in these ICE raids. We have spent decades winning workers’ rights, and we will not sit idly by as federal agents deny them their 4th Amendment rights.””

The UFCW today sponsored the National Meeting on ICE Misconduct and Violations of 4th Amendment Rights to bring together voices across the country; to collect the stories of workers who have suffered during ICE raids; and to plot a course of action on how best to respond.

“”When I tried to report to the cafeteria during the raid, ICE agents accused me of trying to run away. They held me in handcuffs. I’m a U.S. Citizen, born in Iowa. My parents live in Mississippi. My government treated me like a criminal and I didn’t do anything wrong. I knew our rights were being violated. What they’re doing in these raids is illegal,”” said Mike Graves, who has lived in the United States his entire life, works at the Marshalltown, Iowa, Swift and Company plant, and is a member of  UFCW Local 1149.

More than 12,000 meatpacking workers were swept up in ICE raids on December 12, 2006. Since then, many workers in other industries have been arrested, detained against their will and denied contact with their families in subsequent raids. Thousands of workers affected by these raids are U.S. citizens and legal residents.

“”The justification, in the Swift raids, for the mass disruption of work, family and community, the bullying, the intimidation, the fear, and the threats directed at the workers, was a handful of warrants involving less than a fraction of one percent of the workers swept up in the ICE action,”” said Hansen.

“”Workers were held by armed agents, herded together and systematically stripped of their rights,”” said Gabriela Flora an organizer in the central region of Project Voice of the American Friends Service Committee. “”They were denied access to bathrooms and legal counsel. Citizens and legal residents were denied the opportunity to retrieve documents to establish their legal status. Many workers were unable to look after children and elderly family members under their care, because they were not allowed to make a phone call. The breakdown of our 4th Amendment rights represents a failure of the first order on the part of our government.””

“”Politicians cannot have it both ways. They cannot continue to say our immigration system is broken and needs fixing, then turn around and insist on excessive and illegal enforcement measures that make the problems worse for everyone—workers, business, and communities,”” said Hansen.

At the conclusion of today’s national community meeting, the UFCW organized the “”National Working Group on ICE Misconduct and Violations of 4th Amendment Rights,”” designed to help develop a national strategic response to the increased number of ICE raids and enforcement actions. The group will document what happened to union members during the raids, expose abuse and misconduct and present the evidence to Congress. The Working Group intends to show that ICE agents’ tactics during raids in December 2006 were in violation of the federal government’s own rules. The Group will collect other testimony from workplace sites where other raids occurred, and will demand that higher-up authorities in the federal government be held accountable.

“”Work is not a crime. Workers are not criminals. We do not leave our constitutional rights at the plant gate,”” said Hansen. “”The stories of workers caught up in these raids must be heard. Their experience should serve as the foundation for congressional hearings. Our political leaders must do something to secure 4th Amendment rights in the workplace.””


July 11, 2007


Washington, D.C.—The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) announced, today, that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents made a return visit to four Swift and Company plants where workers are represented by the UFCW and arrested approximately four individuals apparently on charges of identity theft, as well as questioning several others.

It does not appear that ICE engaged in the same level of intimidation and overkill as they did in its raids last December at six Swift plants. To the extent this is the case, the UFCW supports law enforcement efforts that abide by the law and respect the rights of workers.

Worksite law enforcement around identity and immigration issues is a symptom of a failed immigration system, and is no substitute for comprehensive reform.

Last month, Congress failed to demonstrate the necessary leadership and persistence to fix our broken system. The UFCW will continue to fight for reform that ensures that all working people—immigrant and native-born—are able to improve their lives and realize the American dream.

For the UFCW position on immigration go to www.ufcw.org and click on issues.

December 18, 2006


(Washington, D.C.) – United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) members working in Swift and Company meatpacking plants are reporting that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents marched into plants Tuesday morning with military weapons, herding, segregating, and terrorizing workers. Plants and plant gates were locked down.

“”The display of force by ICE agents is totally outrageous,”” said Mark Lauritsen, International Vice President and Director of the Food Processing, Packing, and Manufacturing division of the UFCW. “”We believe they are victims of wholesale violations of worker rights. In effect, ICE is criminalizing people for going to work.””

Families have been ripped apart leaving traumatized children stranded at school waiting to be picked up. In some cases, their parents are being transported to detention centers in distant cities and denied the opportunity to call anyone to make arrangements for their children. Workers at the Swift plant in Grand Island, Neb., have been bussed to Camp Dodge, Iowa, six hours away from their families, with no guarantee of return transportation.

Workers at the Greeley Colo., plant reported that gun shots were fired. Representatives and attorneys with the UFCW, who have standing to represent these workers, have been denied access to the detained workers.

“”The workers caught in this vice are victims of a failed immigration system. It’s time for the federal government to stop victimizing workers and reform our immigration system,”” said Lauritsen. “”The last do-nothing Congress failed to produce its promised immigration reform before recess. The result is that children have been orphaned, left to sleep in strange beds and uncertain about their holiday or their future. Worksite raids with armed agents are not the answer to the nationwide call for immigration reform. America deserves a humane, systematic and comprehensive immigration policy immediately.””

UFCW local unions are working tirelessly to contact family members to protect minor children. Union representatives have been denied access to the facilities to represent workers. UFCW local unions are putting in place a system to aid the families, contacting relatives of children, setting up aid funds to supply holiday gifts and whatever long-term assistance they may need.

The UFCW represents approximately 10,000 workers at the five Swift and Company plants.

December 12, 2006


Washington DC—The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) is seeking an immediate injunction in federal court, today, on behalf of workers employed by Swift and Company packing operations in Texas, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska, and Minnesota.

The workers were subjected to a wholesale round up, including detention, by Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

“Essentially, the agents stormed the plants, many of them in riot gear, in an effort designed to terrorize the workforce,” said Mark Lauritsen, director of the UFCW Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing division.

The UFCW represents workers at the Swift and Company plants, as well as other major packers around the country.

“This kind of action is totally uncalled for,” said Lauritsen. “It’s designed to punish workers for working hard everyday, contributing to the success of their companies and communities. They are innocent victims in an immigration system that has been hijacked by corporations for the purpose of importing an exploitable workforce.”

For years, the UFCW has called for comprehensive immigration reform—reform that provides an orderly immigration process that protects worker rights, ensures good wages and benefits for all workers, and recognizes the contributions immigrants make to our society.

“We are advising all the detained workers to exercise their right to an attorney and remain silent until they confer with counsel. These actions today by ICE are an affront to decency.”