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Racial Profiling: Multiple Immigration Raids

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Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials raided meat packing facilities this month as part of "Operation Wagon Train," which was set up to catch undocumented immigrants that may be using stolen Social Security numbers of U.S. citizens in order to gain legal employment.

Over 1,000 ICE officials focused on Swift and Company meat plants, as well as other plants in six states across the U.S.

Swift and Company was founded in 1955 and is currently the second largest producer of pork and beef in the U.S., pulling in more than 9 billion dollars in annual sales.

The President and CEO of Swift, Sam Rovit, claims that he had no knowledge of any undocumented workers working at his plants and that all operations in the six said plants are officially suspended until the Immigration officers have completed their investigation.

"The serious concern is the use of police and immigration officials to sort amongst workers and determine upon unknown criteria who is Latino, and then to assume that all persons perceived to be Latinos are illegal," said Jimmie V. Reyna, National President of the Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA). "The government should immediately call for a moratorium on further raids until it determines how to eliminate "drag net enforcement" that entraps on the basis of race or colour."

According to a press release issued by the ICE, the arrested workers were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, Laos, Sudan, Ethiopia and other countries of origin which have yet to be determined.

During the round-up everyone was forced to line up as the Immigration officers chose workers that appeared "brown skinned". Anyone light-skinned was taken out of the line and given blue bracelets to wear, making them excempt from questioning. In the end, 1,283 workers were detained and loaded into black and white buses to be processed.

"The raids so close to the holidays and are particularly harsh and unwarranted, especially since they involve hard-working people that show up daily at their jobs," said Reyna.

Most of the workers had been to Mass shortly before the raids that day, where they celebrated the Virgin of Guadalupe. It has not been determined if the ICE was aware of this religious holiday and if the timing was specific to that day.

Families of those detained were not given information of the whereabouts of their loved ones. Immigration officials ask that the families call their toll-free number (866) 341-3858 to enquire further.

Copyright ę2006 Anai Rhoads Ford
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Anai Rhoads is a Human Rights journalist originally from Athens, Greece. Her work has been featured on several web-based newspapers and media outlets, which include ZMagazine,, and Media Monitors. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief (more...)
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