The following statement was delivered by Michelle Lapointe, acting deputy legal director for the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project, during a congressional briefing in Washington, D.C., on June 7, 2018.
The Bean Station ICE raid – like all ICE workplace raids – was designed to maximize fear and intimidation. These raids undermine the due process rights of people caught in ICE’s deportation dragnet.
We are deeply concerned about the manner in which the raid was carried out. Individuals were targeted for arrest based only on the perception that they were Latino. Agents used unreasonable force and summarily arrested workers without any arrest warrant and without any individualized suspicion whatsoever. As a result, ICE swept up individuals with work authorization and even a U.S. citizen among the nearly 100 people arrested. However, the non-Latino workers were not arrested at all. Some of our clients were held for 10 hours, handcuffed, without ICE even asking them a single question. ICE officers told another that “you have no rights here” and made ethnic slurs.
Without effective oversight from Congress, ICE will continue to operate with impunity and blatantly violate the Fourth Amendment, as it did in Bean Station during the raid on Southeastern Provision.
After sweeping up the Southeastern Provision workers in mass arrests, ICE sent them to remote detention centers over 700 miles from their homes, families, and communities. These immigration detention centers are located in extremely isolated, rural areas with few immigration attorneys. And even when individuals do have lawyers, they face extreme barriers in effectively accessing legal representation. For example, the LaSalle ICE Processing Center in Jena, Louisiana – where a large number of the individuals arrested in the Tennessee raid were sent – has only one attorney visitation room for up to 1,200 detainees.
This hampers detainees’ ability to fight their immigration cases. Without effective access to lawyers, detainees are significantly less likely to succeed in petitions for bond or to prevail on the merits of their claims – and they instead languish in detention or are deported.
Banishing these individuals to detention centers and foreign countries not only devastates these workers and their families, but also undermines legal protections for all workers. We have filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor seeking an investigation of the significant unpaid wages and other employment law violations at the plant. There are currently ongoing investigations into flagrant violations of workers’ rights at the Southeastern Provision plant, including unpaid wages and unsafe working conditions.
When workers are fighting deportation and locked in detention centers hundreds of miles from home, they are face barriers to cooperating with government investigators to address worker exploitation in a plant that is still operating today.
We urge members of Congress to request that DHS take steps to provide due process to the individuals targeted during the raid:
- DHS should exercise prosecutorial discretion and immediately release those individuals who are still detained, so that they may pursue their options for immigration relief near their legal representatives, families, and local resources;
- DHS should provide individuals with meaningful access to the courts and legal counsel, including timely and confidential meetings with legal representatives and regular access to a legal library with updated legal materials;
- DHS should forego the removal of any individuals who have not had the opportunity to consult with an attorney and/or exhaust all potential legal claims relevant to the raid and their employer; and
- DHS should exercise prosecutorial discretion by granting relief such as parole, continued presence, or deferred action to those individuals whose rights were violated during their arrests.
We urge members of Congress to hold DHS accountable and to answer troubling questions about their actions in the raid, and to ensure that individuals have a meaningful opportunity for their cases to be heard and their rights protected.