ICE raids protested across six states

On Dec. 14, dozens of activists in Des Moines, Iowa took part in a rally protesting the arrests by ICE of some 90 immigrants at the Swift plant in Marshalltown, Iowa. The Marshalltown raid was one of six such raids on Dec. 12; in all, ICE agents arrested 1,282 workers at Swift & Co. meatpacking plants in six states, claiming the sweeps were part of an investigation into identity theft. (WHBF, Rock Island, IL, Dec. 15) On Dec. 17, clergy members spoke out at an evening service in Des Moines called to protest the raids. About 200 people came to Grace United Methodist Church to hold candles and pray in solidarity with detainees and their families. The “Making Room at the Inn” event included multilingual speeches, prayers and hymns. “Jesus was not mindful of Social Security numbers, or countries of origin, or of native languages,” said the Rev. Barbara Dinnen of the Las Americas Comunidad de Fe of the United Methodist Church. (Des Moines Register, Dec. 18)

In a letter to President George W. Bush on Dec. 20, Iowa governor Tom Vilsack complained that ICE officials were not responding to family members’ inquiries about loved ones detained in the Swift raids. “To this day, the whereabouts of some of these people are still unknown,” Vilsack wrote. “Considering the hardship this has on their families, silence as to their condition is not acceptable.” Vilsack urged Bush to also disclose the identities and locations of the detainees to community leaders and faith-based leaders in the six states “so officials can better address the needs of family members left behind.” Vilsack referred to a morning news conference on Dec. 20 in which Bush called for immigration reform, saying that “such changes… will come too late for the families with children who are searching for their parents today.” ICE spokesperson Jamie Zuieback responded that privacy concerns prevent immigration officials from publishing the names of detainees, but they will work with Vilsack “on matters of specific concern.” (Des Moines Register, Dec. 21)

A day earlier, Dec. 19, Vilsack and Maj. Gen. Ron Dardis, the top officer of the Iowa National Guard, wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, calling ICE’s actions in the raids “completely unacceptable,” saying agents undermined the public’s trust in government, potentially jeopardized the safety of law enforcement personnel in Iowa and could have compromised undercover operations. Vilsack and Dardis said they will not cooperate with federal immigration officials in the future unless they act more responsibly and provide better coordination with state officials. (Des Moines Register, Dec. 20)

On Dec. 15 in Colorado, immigrant rights advocates gathered in Greeley, Durango, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Grand Junction and other communities to hold candlelight vigils and join hands to support the families separated by the raids and protest the treatment of the 260 workers arrested in the Dec. 12 raid at the Swift plant in Greeley. “This tragedy is not about ‘identity theft’ or ‘criminal activity’ as…ICE contends,” wrote the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition in a press release announcing the vigils. “It is about women and men working to feed their families and provide for a better life.” (Denver Daily News, Dec. 19; Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition press release, Dec. 14) On the evening of Dec. 18, a crowd of 75-100 people from across the region gathered at the office of El Comite de Longmont in Longmont to protest the raids. The group lit candles and marched down Main Street before rallying on the steps of the Longmont Safety and Justice Center. Many carried signs that read, “No human is illegal.” Others spoke of a basic human right of people to try to improve their life and that of their family, regardless of borders. (Greeley Tribune, Dec. 19)

In San Antonio, Texas on Dec. 21, Latino activist groups held a news conference to condemn the raids and call for an end to such worksite enforcement until Congress can come up with comprehensive immigration reform. (San Antonio Express-News, Dec. 21)

On Dec. 15, over 200 people picketed outside the ICE offices in Chicago to protest the raids. The protest was initiated by the March 10th Movement, and members of the Centro Sin Fronteras, Coalition of Immokalee Workers, Mexico Solidarity Network and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union also took part. The UFCW represents workers at five of the six raided Swift plants. (Party for Socialism and Liberation, Dec. 21)

On Dec. 20, more than 30 people rallied in below-freezing temperatures outside the Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah to protest ICE’s arrests of 154 workers during the Dec. 12 raid at the Swift plant 60 miles away in Hyrum. A union member held a sign demanding “workers’ rights, human rights” for undocumented laborers. “We see this as a racist act of state terrorism,” said David Hansen, a member of the advocacy group Brown Berets in Salt Lake City. The protesters wore yellow bracelets to symbolize the ones ICE apparently used to mark brown-skinned workers during the raid at the Swift plant in Hyrum; white workers were given blue bracelets and were not required to prove their citizenship, witnesses said. ICE spokesperson Lori Haley said she knew nothing of the yellow bracelets, but denied that ICE agents targeted Swift employees because of their skin color. A handful of members of the anti-immigrant Utah Minuteman Project held a counter-protest across the street, waving signs that read, “defending our borders, culture and language.” (Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 21; KCPW News, Salt Lake City, Dec. 21)

From Immigration News Briefs, Dec. 21

See our last posts on the immigration crackdown and the Swift raids.