On June 12, more than 150 ICE agents executed search and arrest warrants at three sites in Portland, Oregon, connected with the Fresh Del Monte company and its Portland fruit and vegetable processing facility, arresting about 165 workers and three managers. Searches were carried out at two offices of American Staffing Resources Inc, a US recruitment company responsible for staffing at the Portland Fresh Del Monte plant. A search warrant was also executed at the Fresh Del Monte office within the plant. As part of the criminal investigation, a federal grand jury in Portland has returned indictments against three individuals alleging immigration, document fraud, and identity theft offenses.
The raid culminated an investigation that began in January 2007 with an undercover operation at American Staffing Resources and Fresh Del Monte. ICE says the staffing agency supplied workers with fake or bad social security numbers so they could work at the plant. Federal agents found that only 48 of the 596 employees had valid Social Security numbers. Another 463 were using someone else’s number; 85 used invalid numbers; and four used numbers of someone previously deported. (Cayman Net News, June 15; ICE news release, June 12; KING5.com, Seattle, June 16; The Oregonian, June 12)
Fresh Del Monte is an international company based in Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; while it uses the Del Monte brand, is a separate entity from the Del Monte Foods Company. Fresh Del Monte employs more than 37,000 employees worldwide, and has 25 facilities in the US. In 2006 they hired about 3,000 temporary workers, many of them in the Portland factory. (Cayman Net News, June 15)
Officials say the raid was based on a federal investigation that began in January. But a local attorney and professor who represented Del Monte workers in a class-action lawsuit against the company says it was revenge. A state investigation found that eight workers were fired after complaining about safety problems. “This was a publicized settlement where immigration officials were aware that there was this group of workers who had complained about workplace violations and this is the first plant they go after in Oregon–I think it’s more than coincidence,” Keith Cunningham-Parmeter told KOIN News 6. (KOIN News 6, Portland, June 13)
On June 16, nearly 100 people, including friends and family members of the arrested workers, protested the raid with a demonstration at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, where federal officials say 131 of the arrested workers were to be taken after being processed at an ICE facility in Tukwila, Washington. About 30 other workers were processed and released on humanitarian concerns with an order of supervision and a notice to appear in front of an immigration judge. Immigrant rights supporters also held a protest the same day of the raid, June 12, at the federal building in downtown Portland. (KING5.com, Seattle, June 16; The Oregonian, June 12)
Portland mayor Tom Potter issued a statement condeming the raids: “I am angered by this morning’s arrest by federal officers of approximately 150 Portland residents who were working at a local produce company. … [T]o go after local workers who are here to support their families while filling the demands of local businesses for their labor is bad policy. It also serves as a reminder of the failure of our national leaders to deliver an immigration policy that is both fair and humane to families and acknowledges the economic realities of our country.” Potter clarified that no Portland police officers participated in the raid. (Potter Statement, June 12) Potter spokesperson John Doussard did say that the city’s police bureau had been given a heads-up about the raids. (AP, June 13)
Political motive in New Haven ICE raids?
Early on June 6, ICE agents arrested 29 men and two women in the Fair Haven neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut, in a raid targeting people who had previously been ordered deported by immigration judges. City officials said on June 7 that only four of the people arrested were named on ICE warrants; another 12 warrants went unserved. Most of those arrested were from Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Guinea.
Lawyers and advocates for immigrants who interviewed relatives of the detainees said that in most cases, immigration officials knocked on their doors and demanded to speak with every adult in the house, then asked for identification. In several cases, agents separated the men from the women and asked which of the women had children. Those who said they did were left behind, advocates said.
New Haven officials questioned the timing of the raid, which came two days after the city’s Board of Aldermen approved the creation of municipal ID cards that could be used by out-of-status immigrants to open bank accounts and access city services. Paula Grenier, a spokesperson for the ICE office in Boston, insisted the arrests were part of a routine fugitive operation that was not associated with the aldermen’s vote, but Mayor John DeStefano wasn’t convinced: “Now there are in America 11,000 cities, towns and villages, but somehow, by some act of circumstance or coincidence, within 36 hours, the response was in New Haven,” he said.
New Haven already had a “safe haven” policy barring local police from inquiring about immigration status. City police did not assist with the ICE raid, said Jessica Mayorga, a spokesperson for DeStefano. “There is truly no safe haven for fugitive aliens,” said ICE spokesperson Marc Raimondi. (AP, June 6; Yale Daily News, June 6; New York Times, June 8)
On June 14, 15 of the arrested New Haven residents appeared in federal immigration court, where an immigration judge determined that they will remain in federal custody. Two were held on $25,000 bonds, while most of the rest were held on $15,000 bonds. Attorneys and law students from Yale and the University of Connecticut said they would return to court on June 20 to argue for lower bonds, based on the detainees’ community ties, family commitments and other factors showing they would be unlikely to flee if released.
The attorneys also plan to present evidence that immigration agents entered homes without authorization, refused to identify themselves and detained people passing by on the street who “appear to have been singled out because of their appearance,” said Michael Wishnie, a Yale law professor who is representing most of those arrested. Two women held in a Boston facility had their bonds reduced to $1,500 and $3,500 during a hearing on June 13, and expected to post those bonds the next day, Wishnie said. The four people who were arrested on warrants for having been previously ordered deported are not eligible for bond and could be deported at any time, Wishnie said. The other arrestees are being held in facilities in Boston and Greenfield, Massachusetts; Providence, Rhode Island; and Cumberland County, Maine.
At least 40 supporters of the detainees rallied on June 14 outside the courthouse in Hartford, Connecticut. Groups of businesses, churches and community groups in greater New Haven also pledged to raise money to help meet the defendants’ bonds and the needs of their families. Several city restaurants are giving 10 percent of their proceeds from business on June 14 to a fund to help the detainees, supporters said. A larger rally was set for June 16. (Stamford Advocate, June 14 from AP; Hartford Courant, June 15) Supporters also organized a protest June 7, the day after the raids, gathering in front of St. Rose of Lima Church and marching through Fair Haven. (E-mail announcement, June 5)
From Immigration News Briefs, June 16
See our last post on the immigration crackdown.