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Immigration Raid Anniversary: ¿Has Anything Changed?

By La Prensa Staff

 

June 5, 2019 marks the one-year anniversary of the largest immigration-related raid in northern Ohio in recent memory. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained nearly 120 workers at Corso's Flower and Garden Center near Sandusky, Ohio during a chaotic pre-dawn raid.

 

The scene was described as “utter chaos” and threw the lives of dozens of families into weeks of uncertainty. Just 13 of the detainees were released within a couple of weeks, while ICE shipped more than 100 others to holding facilities at least a two hours' drive from their loved ones. Many of the families affected live in the Willard and Norwalk, Ohio areas, while their parents were detained at lock-ups in Michigan and the Youngstown, Ohio area.

 

The situation grew grim enough that HOLA Ohio opened a Norwalk, Ohio office last September, staffed by a bilingual caseworker to help immigrant families sort out the confusing mess the raid created. The social justice nonprofit committed to keeping the office open through August because of the sheer number of people impacted between the Corso's raid and another that followed two weeks later at a meatpacking plant in Salem, Ohio, where another 146 Latinos were detained by ICE agents.

 

HOLA Ohio has continued to work as recently as late April to help reunite parents and their kids, battling their detention and deportation cases. One dad was detained for weeks "when his family needed him most," according to one HOLA Facebook post.

 

"His son, Brandon, 6, is battling leukemia. Thanks to our bond fund and legal defense fund, we were able to help bond out dad and reunite him with his wife and children," wrote Victoria Dahlberg, HOLA director. "It is incomprehensible that these sweeps and hard line “zero tolerance” policies are being done to our immigrant community, tearing apart their families."

 

But during National Police Week last month, HOLA Ohio clarified its position supporting the law enforcement community, despite a growing need for its services in the immigration battle.

 

“During this time of anti-immigrant rhetoric and the policies that arise from them, our work advocating for Latinos, immigrants and their families is often judged-- incorrectly-- to mean we are against law enforcement,” wrote Ms. Dahlberg. “While we take issue with certain policies, our gratitude, admiration and respect for law enforcement is unwavering.”

 

The ICE raid at the Erie County landscaping and garden operation was prompted by the arrest in October 2017 of Martha Buendia-Chavarria a Mexico native who received a four-and-a-half-year federal prison sentence after pleading guilty to four federal charges stemming from the creation and sale of fraudulent IDs and documents to people suspected of being in the country illegally, as well as using someone else’s ID to live in the U.S. Federal authorities allege that Ms. Buendia-Chavarria and her associates manufactured upwards of 1,000 fake identities.

 

Corso's has maintained since the raid the company was unaware any of its employees were using fake documents to gain employment. Media reports indicate at least a dozen-and-a-half Corso's workers detained in the raid were later indicted on immigration-related charges. Others signed papers to voluntarily return to their native Mexico.

 

Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) led the charge to form a legal defense team for the Corso's employees caught up in the raid, both to ensure their rights were maintained, as well as to help them understand the complicated federal immigration system and deportation process.

 

ABLE and HOLA Ohio each set up bond and legal funds, soliciting donations to pay the thousands of dollars in each case to get immigrants released to reunite with their families. In most cases, volunteers drove for hours round-trip to pick up the detainees to return them home.

 

But getting to stay in the U.S. has not been guaranteed for any of them. Lawyers have spent countless hours helping them assemble documents and file a defense to remain in this country. Those hearings have led to a long, drawn-out process after weeks in detention for many parents. The loneliness of captivity, combined with the stress of whether families would get to stay intact has led to depression and other mental health issues for many individuals.

 

While media attention surrounding the raid and its aftermath has virtually disappeared, the Trump administration has seemingly ramped up its ‘zero tolerance’ policy and the number of workplace raids over the past year. According to a Homeland Security report released last December, ICE arrests at workplaces grew by 640 percent year-over-year—increasing from 311 in 2017 to more than 2,300 a year later. 779 of those arrests were for criminal offenses, and 1,525 were for immigration offenses.

 

More than ten percent of those arrests came from the two northern Ohio raids staged just two weeks apart a year ago. In the Corso's raid, some 200 ICE agents backed by helicopters engaged garden center employees in a pre-dawn raid.

 

“Employers who use an illegal workforce as part of their business model put businesses that do follow the law at a competitive disadvantage,” Homeland Security Investigations Executive Associate Director Derek N. Benner said in a statement that accompanied the report's release. “These laws help protect jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully employed, reduce the incentive of illegal migration, eliminate unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal workforce, and ultimately help strengthen public safety and national security.”

 

North Carolina

The ramp-up in ICE enforcement activity has seemingly continued unabated, despite the raids being heavily criticized publicly for disrupting and separating families. Published reports in North Carolina indicate a series of what a group of mayors called “retaliatory raids” were conducted in that state’s three most populous counties after those counties elected new sheriffs who either rescinded cooperation agreements with ICE or publicly stated they’d require proper court documentation to hold an immigration detainee.

 

More than 200 people were detained across North Carolina in one week’s time in early February. The head of the Atlanta ICE office said the increase in immigration enforcement across the state is “the new normal” and admitted the increased raids were “a product of some of the policies that have been enacted within the state.”

 

That led to further accusations that ICE agents were posing as day laborers or van drivers to draw out pools of undocumented immigrant workers for round-ups. Advocates contend ICE may be using new tactics to detain and deport migrants to county the increased use of social media by immigrant communities o alert others of ICE operations, sightings, and checkpoints in their area.

 

Many of the raids have occurred in smaller towns, away from North Carolina’s more populous cities. That may cause some worry among migrant farm workers who begin the harvesting year in the state picking tobacco and other crops. Many of them are members of the Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC).

 

A similar large-scale increase in ICE enforcement activity has been reported across Texas.

HOLA Ohio also reports "a new scenario" has developed in the last few weeks, as asylum-seekers from the southern border are being transported to and detained in the same Youngstown prison that held the male detainees from the Corso's raid. According to the nonprofit group, one young man had been detained for six months, unable to post a $7,000 bond.

 

There are serious humanitarian and medical concerns. He has an amputated foot and a bad prosthetic limb," wrote Ms. Dahlberg in a Facebook post. "There is no doubt he will be an asset to northeast Ohio. He was an accountant in his home country of Honduras and has been approved for release. The bond is the only barrier."

 

On the Internet: https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/06/06/immi-j06.html

 

 

 

 

 

  

Copyright © 1989 to 2019 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 06/11/19 13:59:14 -0700.

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