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SPLC: Settlement Confirms Exploitation of Workers Targeted by ICE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) issued the following statement by Julia Solórzano, staff attorney with the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project, responding to the settlement which forces an East Tennessee meat processing plant to pay workers over half a million dollars in stolen wages. The plant, Southeastern Provision, was the subject of a workplace immigration raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in April 2018.

“This settlement confirms our concerns that the workers targeted by ICE were subject to egregious labor exploitation, including wage theft and unsafe working conditions, spanning many years.

“While this settlement provides these workers with some much-deserved relief, they also deserve justice for being racially profiled and subject to unlawful arrests.”

The settlement is the culmination of a wage and hour lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Labor to recover unpaid wages for workers at the plant. In the consent order resolving the case, the plant agreed to pay over $600,000 in unpaid wages and liquidated damages to the workers whose wages they stole. The liquidated damages stipulate the workers be paid double the wages stolen. 

In February 2019, the SPLC, along with the National Immigration Law Center, pro bono attorneys Eben P. Colby, Jeremy A. Berman, Arthur R. Bookout, and the law firm of Sherrard, Roe, Voigt & Harbison, filed Isabel Zelaya v. Robert Hammer on behalf of seven individuals and a class of all Latinx workers detained during the April 2018 immigration raid at an East Tennessee meat processing plant. The raid was the first large workplace immigration raid in nearly a decade, in which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detained approximately 100 Latino workers, violating their rights against illegal seizures and to equal protection under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.