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Report: ICE Raids Chilled Civil Liberties, Violated Constitution

New America Media, News Report, Annette Fuentes Posted: Jun 20, 2009

Raids conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency on workplaces and in homes during the Bush administration violated constitutional rights and civil liberties, trampled workers rights, fostered racial profiling and created long-lasting harm to communities and families, according to a report by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

ICE made headlines with its commando-style enforcement raids in 2006 on Swift meat processing plants and again in 2008 at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa, but the abuse of workers and legal violations were widespread and systemic, and occurred across the country, the report states.

Titled Raids on Workers: Destroying Our Rights, the report resulted from a two-year investigation by a commission formed by the union after the ICE raids on Swift factories. The report was released Thursday in a telephonic press briefing.

The commission held hearings in five cities and collected testimony from 59 witnesses, many of whom described physical and verbal abuse by ICE agents and prison-like conditions of detention. And perhaps most shocking, the vast majority of workers caught up in the raids were U.S. citizens or legal immigrants.

Id read about the raids and even talked with some victims, but when we traveled around the country, I was totally shocked at the level of abuse ICE visited on people, said Bill Ong Hing, a commission member and law professor at UC Davis. We saw the deprivation of prescription drugs, separation of newborns from nursing mothers.

The communities themselves were devastated, he said, not only that the raid occurred, but the town was made into a ghost town. Families were chased into the woods and were afraid of coming back.

Another commission member, Mary Bauer, of the immigrant justice project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, said that most of the raids were unconstitutional because they violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure and Fifth Amendment guarantees of due process.

It shows a law enforcement agency with profound disrespect for the law and the Constitution, Bauer said. We saw again and again agents entering people's homes without warrants, separating people based on ethnicity, wanton violations of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments.

Mike Graves, a Swift worker in Marshalltown, Iowa, was detained in an ICE raid on Dec. 12, 2006, although he is a U.S. citizen and had worked at the plant for two decades. He was handcuffed and held for eight hours along with hundreds of other workers in a crowded building with no food, water or access to bathrooms.

This raid was uncalled for. It affected a lot of people who came to work, Graves said during the press briefing. It kind of baffled me the way they treated us all like criminals when they were just looking for a handful of people.

The ICE raids on Swift plants scooped up some 12,000 workers even though the agency had civil warrants for only 133 named individuals.

The raids carried a high price tag to the public, costing more than $13,000 for each person detained, and even more in legal costs for processing them. Hing noted that under the Obama administration, the budget for enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security, which runs ICE, has continued to grow. In 2004 ICEs budget was $3.4 billion, and today it is $6 billion. He noted, however, that the new administration is focusing on prosecutions of immigrants with criminal histories and that ICE raids on workplaces have decreased.

Union head James Hansen said the commissions report would be used to jumpstart discussions with Congress about comprehensive immigration reform. They will not call for a moratorium on ICE raids because, he said, theres a way to do these things without violating peoples rights.

Related Articles:

A Year Later, Iowa Raid Haunts Immigrants

Immigrants Dont Feel Safe in Sanctuary City

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