by Cynthia De Castro/Asianjournal.com
LOS ANGELES – Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents conducted a sweeping raid in the world’s largest poultry processor, Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plants last week in five states – Texas, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee and West Virginia.
Over 300 undocumented workers were arrested for suspicion of committing identity theft. A felony under Federal law, identity theft has been a growing problem as workers in the US illegally look for ways to avoid detection. Some US citizens and legal residents rent or share their Social Security numbers, making detection even more difficult.
The poultry plant raids and other recent raids by immigration officials were the main focus of discussion during Access Washington, a teleconference participated in by members of ethnic media to get the latest immigration updates. The calls are organized in partnership with the National Immigration Forum, the Center for Community Change, the Asian American Justice Center and the National Council of La Raza, and funded by Public Interest Projects.
As ICE raids are on the rise, hundreds of undocumented workers are put up into detention centers around the country, affecting families, communities and the economy. Last week, Federal immigration agents raided a Houston doughnut plant and arrested almost 30 workers as suspected illegal immigrants, according to the Associated Press.
Andrea Black, Network Coordinator of Detention Watch Network, reported that in recent months, there has been a dramatic increase in ICE raids and arrests. “Their target is to remove all illegal immigrants from the US by 2012. They have had a vast increase in budget and manpower and they have become much better organized. Last year, 276,000 were deported. These raids have been able to create an environment of fear across the country,” said Black.
The arrests have had devastating effects on families, according to Paromita Shah, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. “We have had reports that workers who have been arrested were not able to contact families or lawyers and were transferred to other facilities making it very difficult for their families to track them down. The usual problem is what happens to the children left at home by these people who are arrested and deported? “ Shah stated.
Black and Shah mentioned that with the failure of the passage of a comprehensive immigration reform program, the authorities are stepping up the enforcement of arresting and deporting illegal immigrants. If the attempt at such an immigration reform was passed last year in Congress, it would have provided a path to citizenship for some of the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants, a guest worker program and toughened enforcement against employers.