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12/14: Raids in 6 states may be largest ever
Released 15 December 2006  By JENNIFER TALHELM - Associated Press

Raids in 6 states may be largest ever

By JENNIFER TALHELM, Associated Press Writer
December 14, 2006

More than 1,200 people were arrested in meatpacking
plants in six states during raids that federal
officials said amounted to the largest-ever workplace
crackdown on illegal immigration.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said
Wednesday the investigation uncovered a "disturbing
front" in the war against illegal immigration, in
which illegal immigrants are using the identities of
U.S. citizens to obtain jobs.

"Violations of our immigration laws and privacy rights
often go hand in hand," he said. "Enforcement actions
like this one protect the privacy rights of innocent
Americans while striking a blow against illegal

The raids at Swift & Co. plants across the country
resulted in 1,282 arrests, including 1,217 on
immigration charges and 65 on criminal charges such as
identity theft. Chertoff said the investigation is
continuing into several groups that may have sold
identity documents to illegal immigrants.

The arrested workers were from Mexico, Guatemala,
Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, Laos, Sudan, Ethiopia and
other countries.

During a raid Tuesday at the Swift plant in Greeley,
Colo., a frustrated Tony Garcia watched as Immigration
and Customs Enforcement agents swarmed inside to
arrest illegal immigrants. "We need help, we need
answers," he said, questioning who would take care of
the children whose parents were arrested.

The raids followed a 10-month investigation into
illegal immigrants suspected of buying or stealing
other people's identities to secure U.S. jobs. The
scheme may have had hundreds victims, officials said.

Immigration officials last month informed Swift that
it would remove unauthorized workers on Dec. 4, but
Swift asked a federal judge to prevent agents from
conducting the raid, arguing it would cause
"substantial and irreparable injury" to its business.

The company estimated a raid would remove up to 40
percent of its 13,000 workers. Greeley-based Swift
describes itself as the world's second-largest meat
processor with sales of about $9 billion.

After a closed hearing, a judge on Thursday rejected
Swift's request, clearing the way for Tuesday's raids
at the plants in Greeley; Grand Island; Cactus, Texas;
Hyrum, Utah; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington,

The six plants represent all of Swift's domestic beef
processing capacity and 77 percent of its pork
processing capacity.

Advocates of stricter immigration control praised the
raids and pointed out that they targeted people
suspected of committing other crimes in addition to
being in the U.S. illegally.

"I'm glad that ICE is enforcing our immigration laws
in light of the illegal immigration crisis we face
across the country," Sen. Wayne Allard (news, bio,
voting record), R-Colo., said in a statement.

Others called the raids heavy-handed and criticized
the effect on families.

"They are taking mothers and fathers, and we're really
concerned about the children," said the Rev. Clarence
Sandoval of St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church
in Logan, Utah. "I'm getting calls from mothers saying
they don't know where their husband was taken."

United Food and Commercial International Workers union
spokeswoman Jill Cashen told the Post workers taken
from the Worthington, Minn., plant were bused to South

She said Tuesday that attorneys for the union would
ask federal judges in all six states for injunctions
to halt the raids.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Department also pledged to
ensure that any Mexicans caught up in the raids have
"their human rights fully respected, and are given all
the necessary assistance, orientation and consular

No charges were filed against Swift.

In a written statement, President and CEO Sam Rovit
said the company has never knowingly hired illegal
workers and does not condone the practice.

Swift uses a government pilot program to confirm
whether Social Security numbers are valid. Company
officials have raised questions about the program's
ability to detect when two people are using the same

Immigration agents have also staged immigration raids
at poultry plants in the South. In July 2005, nearly
120 people were arrested at an Arkadelphia, Ark.,
facility. Three months ago, agents raided a poultry
plant in Stillmore, Ga., arresting a similar number
who worked there or lived in surrounding counties and
busing them to immigration courts in Atlanta, 189
miles away.

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