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Workers terrorized, handcuffed and held without food or water. Mothers separated for days or weeks from children. Guns brandished at innocent workers just doing their job.

Sound like another country? Unfortunately, this scenario has taken place in America--perpetuated by our own government at American workplaces. And finally, people are starting to take notice.

Yesterday, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union held a public hearing in Boston to address a March 2007 ICE raid involving hundreds of federal agents in New Bedford, Mass. which resulted in the detention and terrorizing of hundreds of employees who couldn't provide proof of their legal immigration status.  Senator John Kerry, among others, was there to testify on the government's failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

Senator Kerry was also there to discuss his legislative proposal:

He said that while the ICE does important work, it needs to change the way it conducts raids.

Supposed "interviewees" detained by the ICE, Kerry said in his testimony, were "handcuffed and manacled" as agents sought to determine their immigration status.

Kerry’s bill would require that aliens detained in similar raids be afforded translators; given access to state social services, to determine whether they have medical needs; be considered for release based on age-, medical- or family-related humanitarian grounds; and be released within 72 hours if they are not subject to mandatory detention and do not pose a flight risk.

The UFCW created the National Commission on ICE Misconductto look into claims that ICE has engaged in violations of the 4th Amendment. After thorough investigation, the Commission will produce a public report that highlights its findings and makes recommendations to ensure that workers don't have to leave their constitutional rights behind when they go to work.

The motivation for the union's investigation was ICE's Dec. 12, 2006 raid of six meat packing plants around the country where the union represents workers, where though more than 12,000 meatpacking workers—including citizens, legal residents and immigrants in the process of legalization—were swept up in unprecedented, unwarranted and excessive use of force, only 65 workers were indicted for identity theft.

Numerous human rights violations were noted at these workplace raids:

The legal complaint contends that during the December 12th raids workers were denied access to telephones, bathrooms and legal counsel. Citizens and legal residents also were deprived of the opportunity to retrieve documents to establish their legal status. Some workers were handcuffed. Others were shipped out on buses. Families, schools and daycare centers could not be contacted to make arrangements for the children of detained workers. Families were left divided and scared—not knowing where or when they might see a missing family member again.

"When I tried to report to the cafeteria during the raid, ICE agents accused me of trying to run away. They held me in handcuffs. I'm a U.S. Citizen, born in Iowa. My parents live in Mississippi. My government treated me like a criminal, and I didn’t do anything wrong. I knew our rights were being violated. What they're doing in these raids is illegal," said Mike Graves, who has lived in the United States his entire life, works at the Marshalltown, Iowa, Swift and Company plant, and is a member of  UFCW Local 1149.

And even though the same types of abuses occured at the raids in Boston, ICE is trying to tell us that these raids are no big deal:  

I’ve heard things that are patently false, exaggerated to create a fear about law enforcement in this country," Pat Reilly, an ICE spokeswoman, said in an interview last week. "It’s quite common for people to greatly exaggerate concerns of humanitarian misconduct."

However, that's not quite what witnesses, workers, and others that testifed have stated. They report all the trauma that you might expect would result would result from such treatment from your own government:  

Amaro Laria, director of the Latino Mental Health Training Program at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology, said that during the New Bedford raids, there were numerous instances of abuse — about which he testified at Monday’s hearing alongside DeStefano.

Laria said that after the raids, he and some of his students started volunteering, offering mental-health evaluations to women who had been detained as well as to their husbands, siblings and children.

"What struck me was how complex the issues were that we were seeing," especially in the children who had experienced separation from parents, he said after the hearing. "We started seeing classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder: nightmares, insomnia, acting out behavior, anxiety paranoia."

So that's good.  In addition to the thousands of soliders who have or will come back from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder, we now have hundreds or potentially thousands of workers here suffering from the same problem--at the hands of their own government.

As the UFCW's President, Joe Hansen says, " Work is not a crime.  Workers are not criminals.  We do not leave our constitutional rights at the plant gate."

It's great that the UFCW is doing something to bring this issue to light, and that politicians like Senator Kerry are working to expose our broken immigration system. But more people have to get involved. We have to tell Congress that this kind of behavior from ICE is NOT American--and that Congress's failure to enact meaningful immigration reform is going to cost a lot of incumbents their jobs this fall unless they do something NOW.

Originally posted to 4workers on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:04 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Work is not a crime (5+ / 0-)

    Illegal immigration, fraudulantly representing yourself as legally eligible to work in the U.S. is.

  •  You don't see the game (3+ / 0-)

    The administration is enforcing the immigration laws now, after the country has ignored them for the past 20 years, in an effort to gin up sympathy for illegals so that amnesty is passed.

    They would rather do that than actually control the border.

    It feeds the false choice that amnesty advocates always propose - either legalize or deport.

    Speaking as an staunch anti-amnesty person, I will say that's bullshit.  I will be HAPPY to provide a legit path to legality for the illegals already here AFTER the border is secure.  Until then, we can keep the status quo.

    "Capitalism is the only system that can make freedom, individuality, and the pursuit of values possible in practice." - Ayn Rand

    by headhunt23 on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:09:36 AM PDT

    •  It's not about controlling the border (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tikkun, Sychotic1, catleigh, DaNang65

      ...though you are 100% right about the object of the "game." What needs to be controlled are the businesses that hire undocumented immigrants--what if they went in and strong-armed the greedy employers who want to pay slave wages and offer crappy work conditions and otherwise circumvent the law regarding worker treatment?

      This would end the problem yesterday. And they know it. They have no intention of ending the problem.

      How we know Daffy Duck is Republican: "It's mine, understand? Mine, all mine! Get back down there! Down down down! Go go go! Mine mine mine! Mwahahaha!" --BiPM

      by rhetoricus on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:23:32 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I doubt it (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tikkun, theboz

        Not all people that hire illegals pay them less than minimum wage (which is where i presume we would draw the "slave wages" line.  The dirty little secret of the immigration debate is that a lot of those employers would rather hire illegals than domestic workers for the same rate, because illegals are better workers.

        Also, why is it businesses' responsibility to enforce the immigration law?  If someone shows up with the proper documentation, should that company not hire them>  And, the fist time that a legal worker was turned away (which would invariably happen on occassion if employers were being strict enough to exclude the vast majority of illegals, would that business be subject to a discrimination lawsuit?

        It is the government's responsiblity to enforce the border.

        "Capitalism is the only system that can make freedom, individuality, and the pursuit of values possible in practice." - Ayn Rand

        by headhunt23 on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:31:10 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  have you ever seen the southern border? (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          theboz, mariachi mama, synductive99

          It is some of the wildest most desolate land in the United States. Starkly beautiful and deadly as hell.

          Also very very large. There is no way to physically control the border without gunning down the economic refugees streaming north. Though as our building sector tanks, the flow is slowing and even reversing.

          The only possible method of effective control is employer side controls. I want no tanks in my back yard thanks you can have them.

          " Every Thanksgiving, Bill Clinton stuffs a kitten inside a puppy inside a chimp inside a dolphin. It's like a turducken, only more evil. " balancedscales

          by buddabelly on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:40:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Also what about the Northern border? (4+ / 0-)

            The coastlines, the millions who entered legally on a visa and overstayed. The secure the border people have no clue..

            •  So true, its to the point I know they are talking (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              theboz

              about our border when there is as much if not more illegal smuggling and the like on the northern border.

              As I remember so far every "terrorist" caught was coming from Canada......

              " Every Thanksgiving, Bill Clinton stuffs a kitten inside a puppy inside a chimp inside a dolphin. It's like a turducken, only more evil. " balancedscales

              by buddabelly on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:45:14 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  How is our slump affecting the Baja (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              theboz

              is building slowing there as well?. Here in Az. it is like the housing market just fell off the cliff.

              " Every Thanksgiving, Bill Clinton stuffs a kitten inside a puppy inside a chimp inside a dolphin. It's like a turducken, only more evil. " balancedscales

              by buddabelly on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:46:40 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  That's less than 1/2 of the illegals. (0+ / 0-)

              Next.

              "Capitalism is the only system that can make freedom, individuality, and the pursuit of values possible in practice." - Ayn Rand

              by headhunt23 on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:47:03 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  That's Okay Though (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              mariachi mama

              The secure the border people have no clue

              Because the 'jail the employers' don't either.

              <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

              by superscalar on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 11:19:55 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  The Chinese could buile a 2000 mile wall (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Decih

            1000+ years ago?  Do you really believe we couldn't do that now?

            The larger concern is the environmental impact, but let's suppose we build 5 miles of fence, and leave 1 mile open, then five miles of fence.  We would then essentially reduce border monitoring from a 2000 mile proposition to a 330 mile proposition.

            The only thing we lack is will.

            "Capitalism is the only system that can make freedom, individuality, and the pursuit of values possible in practice." - Ayn Rand

            by headhunt23 on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:46:37 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  again I ask have you seen the southern border? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              theboz, mariachi mama

              This is the desert. Walls and fences are ripped down in the first Monsoon storm. Flash floods rip away anything in their path.

              If there is a problem it is with the employers gaming the system.

              " Every Thanksgiving, Bill Clinton stuffs a kitten inside a puppy inside a chimp inside a dolphin. It's like a turducken, only more evil. " balancedscales

              by buddabelly on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:48:48 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Yes, I have seen the southern border. (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                william shipley

                I've been to Arizona and souther Texas.

                But please, your logic is suspect.  If you can't build a fence there, then the houses should all come down in on the those monsoons or flash floods.

                "Capitalism is the only system that can make freedom, individuality, and the pursuit of values possible in practice." - Ayn Rand

                by headhunt23 on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:50:54 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  the houses aren't in a (0+ / 0-)

                  2300 mile line. We build around the dry watercourses. A fence can't.

                  Not only will a fence not work but it will create major environmental problems. If the draw is there people will come to work......

                  " Every Thanksgiving, Bill Clinton stuffs a kitten inside a puppy inside a chimp inside a dolphin. It's like a turducken, only more evil. " balancedscales

                  by buddabelly on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 11:00:30 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Fence? (0+ / 0-)

                    You speak of a fence being able to stand up against the elements. You don't say anything about a reinforced stone and/or metal wall designed to withstand the elements.

                    If the Chinese could build a 4,000 mile wall that lasted 2,000 years, surely we can do just as well with today's technology?

                    I'm not addressing the point of whether it should be done. I'm saying that it can.

                    Barack Obama is the unstoppable force, Hillary Clinton the immovable object.
                    Michigan voter. Not disenfranchised.

                    by Decih on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 11:19:32 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  As I said earlier (0+ / 0-)

                    not every mile of the border has to be fenced.

                    There may be parts that can't for reasons like you stated, or there may be large holes intentionally left open to allow animal migration.

                    But, fencing other large portions will make securing those parts much easier.

                    "Capitalism is the only system that can make freedom, individuality, and the pursuit of values possible in practice." - Ayn Rand

                    by headhunt23 on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 11:37:22 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

        •  Wrong on so many levels. (0+ / 0-)

          Wow, I just saw your Ayn Rand quote. Why don't you go explain your "capitalism (automatically) equals freedom" theory to the horribly oppressed people of Singapore? Oy.

          "Not all people that hire illegals pay them less than minimum wage"

          Not always, though they do pay significantly less than the prevailing wage, which hurts domestic workers. More importantly, these businesses ignore workmans' comp, hazardous conditions, insurance issues, etc. Again, these hire illegals to circumvent the law and get an unfair edge on businesses that respect the law.

          "illegals are better workers"

          Terror, I suppose, is a strong motivator. Other than that, what evidence do you have that non-illegals are somehow worse workers? What an insult to legal migrants and hardworking citizens.

          "If someone shows up with the proper documentation.."

          Show me a single case in which a worker showed up with proper documentation and a company was held responsible for hiring an illegal. This is ridiculous. Corporations go out of their way to hire illegals. The target would never be companies that were somehow bamboozled beyond their due diligence.

          "would that business be subject to a discrimination lawsuit?"

          Newsflash: businesses are SUPPOSED to discriminate against illegal workers. There is a very straightforward process for determining a worker's legal status. It's really not all that hard. It's done on me every time I apply for a job.

          "It is the government's responsiblity to enforce the border."

          If the niche jobs and government benefits went away, there would be no need to give billions to KBR and Blackwater to "enforce the border." Illegal migrants would leave of their own accord.

          How we know Daffy Duck is Republican: "It's mine, understand? Mine, all mine! Get back down there! Down down down! Go go go! Mine mine mine! Mwahahaha!" --BiPM

          by rhetoricus on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 12:16:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Absolutely right! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        tikkun, happymisanthropy

        There is no way our borders will ever be 'secure' unless we're willing to wall ourselves in like the former Soviet Bloc and start machine-gunning anyone who tries to cross--even then, some people will find ways in (and out).  The way to stop illegal immigration is to stop the problem at it's source--the employers who won't pay U.S. citizens a living wage but are happy to turn a blind eye to the immigration status of illegals who'll work for poverty level wages and zero benefits.  The Republicans will never go after the employers because empowered, well-paid workers are anathema to them.  I'm highly skeptical that the Dems will do anything either as they're too beholden to business interests.

        "Going to church does not make us Christians any more than stepping into our garage makes us a car." --Rev R. Neville

        by catleigh on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:34:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Stopping at it's source (0+ / 0-)

          I cannot believe that the only way to enforce border security is at a diner in Nebraska!

          The border can be fenced, monitored electronically, etc. -- if we want to.

          Visitor visas should be tracked and the limits enforced.

          And, of course, we should improve the legal immigration process. If it wasn't so hard to do the right thing, we wouldn't have so many people trying to skip the 'line'.

          How we decide which of the worlds 6,000,000,000 people get to come here and which do not is a rather daunting problem, though.

    •  The borders will never be secure (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      theboz, Jonathanonymous, buddabelly

      That is an impossible goalpost.

      •  Secure is probably an overstatement (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        trillian, Decih, happymisanthropy

        but are you saying that we can't cut the flow of illegals from 40K a month to 4K a month?

        Perfection is unattainable, but we should be able to stop the bulk.

        "Capitalism is the only system that can make freedom, individuality, and the pursuit of values possible in practice." - Ayn Rand

        by headhunt23 on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:52:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  This is racism (15+ / 0-)

    As your average white guy, I don't carry around a birth certificate or a passport. But of course, ICE is not asking me anything. They are also not asking white Brits or white Canadians I'm willing to bet. They might as well admit that it's a crime not to look like a white guy.

    BTW Tip jar?

    •  At this rate, just the opposite will occur (3+ / 0-)

      Canada and Britiain do not pass out comic books to their citizens showing them how to sneak into the US.

      At this rate, until things turn around on Jan 20, 2009; Canadians and Britons should worry about impovrished Americans sneaking into their country.

      I would have to Google it up, but recently, the US citizen Human Resources director of a company was arrested for intentionally hiring undocumented workers.

    •  What percentage of illegal immigrants (0+ / 0-)

      They are also not asking white Brits or white Canadians I'm willing to bet

      Are white Brits or white Canadians?

      This is racism

      Bullshit

      56% of all illegal immigration is from Mexico.
      82% of all illegal immigration is from the combination of Mexico, Central America, and South America.

      Is it any wonder that the focus is not on 'white Brits or white Canadians'?

      <div style="font-size:10px;text-align:center;background-color:#ffd;color:#f33">If the terriers and bariffs are torn down, this economy will grow - G. Bush

      by superscalar on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 11:24:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are partially right (0+ / 0-)

        Your stats make the case as to why they concentrate on people from south of the border--but I'm thinking about the attitude behind the handcuffs and refusing to let legal immigrants, or perhaps Americans who look Mexican (the post doesn't clarify) get their documents. Mexicans and Central Americans have always been the major illegal groups, but having lived in Boston, there were at the time in the 90's many Irish people who came for construction jobs, were not legal, and were never hassled. The politics in Boston did not make for a great outcry against illegal Irish immigrants. I have known Canadians who just came here to work and live and never bothered with a Visa. It may be different now, I don't know. But I do see people from Canada in my work, and I know people from Oregon who moved to Vancouver. No hassles there. If they looked different they would be more likely to get hassled. Here in Oregon a report a few years ago talked about the crime of driving while Mexican, pointing out that there were far more stops proportionally, and that the stops resulted in more searches than they would for whites. I know a former Portland police officer who always gets hassled at the airport because he looks sorta Mexican (he is actually from Hawaii). This all leads me to think that there is an institutional bias working here, and that at it's base it is, perhaps not consciously, racism.

        There really has to be a better way to do this stuff.

      •  So what? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        marketgeek

        There are an even greater number of U.S. citizens and legal immigrants that are latinos.  Should they have to face questioning every time they go out in public just because they have brown skin?  This issue isn't about the legal status of the workers detained, but rather about the fact that hispanics are targeted time and time again as a part of racist policies.  We on the left should be just as opposed to blindly targeting hispanic workers as possible undocumented immigrants as we are opposed to police officers randomly stopping black men for driving a nice car.  Racism is racism, plain and simple.

  •  The problem is going to get worse (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    theboz

    Yesterday, there was a diary about how construction workers are leaving Las Vegas and moving back to Mexico.

    They see more of a future in the Mexican economy than they do in the Las Vegas economy.

    What's going to happen starting Jan 20, 2009 when we no longer have a corrupt idiot in the White House?

    Mexico will still have conservative Calderon.

    So moving to the US will be even more appealing.

    President Obama will need to open the borders and declare an amnesty.

    Or he will have to authorize some kind of enforcement similar to that mentioned in the diary.

    •  We don't need to do an amnesty (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      browneyes

      Until AFTER we have border security.

      Until then, they can live in the shadows.

      "Capitalism is the only system that can make freedom, individuality, and the pursuit of values possible in practice." - Ayn Rand

      by headhunt23 on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:23:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You can enforce the law without being (14+ / 0-)

      brutal and cruel to people.  This diary is not saying that no workplace raids should be conducted, or that illegal immigrants shouldn't be detained and deported when they are caught.  But it is saying that people who are suspected of being illegal immigrants shouldn't be treated like animals, and that they should be given the opportunity to prove their citizenship and/or legal status before being handcuffed, detained, etc. etc.  Also, just because someone's illegal doesn't mean they should be abused or denied the opportunity to use a bathroom or prevented from making arrangements for the care of their children.  If there was a shred of compassion in the Bush ICE, those kind of logisics would have been planned for and efficiently carried out.

      "Going to church does not make us Christians any more than stepping into our garage makes us a car." --Rev R. Neville

      by catleigh on Tue Apr 08, 2008 at 10:25:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah right (0+ / 0-)

      You think Obama can undo everything Bush has done?  It will take more than the next eight years to undo all of the damage.  It will probably take that much just to get us halfway back to the nation we were under Bill Clinton's presidency, much less becoming better.

    •  President Obama (0+ / 0-)

      will need to take ICE out of commission and restore freedom! Government is for the people, by the people, and of the people--not a nobility of native-borns and ex-pats.

      The government doesn't have the right to tell anyone where they could live; it's like being assigned housing in Communist Russia/China. Religious freedom is now starting to be questioned because this issue ignited the destruction of freedom.

      Declare independence from Great Britain. Use SI instead. U.S. Metric Association www.metric.org

      by movingforward on Wed Apr 09, 2008 at 09:46:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  ICE, Iraq, and Gitmo (6+ / 0-)

    In all three cases, the people being abused are conceived of as "other" than us. But while they may be "other", they are still people.

    We are people too.

    The precedent being set with respect to these "other" people will some day be applied to us, because...

    We are people too.

  •  Our Government Has Become An Embarrassment (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MsSpentyouth

    to all citizens of good will.  

    Yes, we need to secure the borders, Yes, we need assurances that people are in this country legally.  Yes, we need to have consequences for being in the country illegally.  

    No, we do not need to treat people inhumanely when they are captured legally. No, we do not need to treat people inhumanely who are in the country legally but happen to be of the wrong color or who do not speak the right language.  

    This behavior by government workers is an abomination!

  •  First they came for the communists (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    theboz

    This is all part and parcel of the same thinking that allows places like the Taylor Texas internment camp to exist.

  •  Kudos to Kerry (0+ / 0-)

    I'm sorry I didn't know about this meeting I might have been able to video blog this event. I think it's a disgrace what went down in Bedford and I applaud my senator's efforts to bring and end to this kind of business as usual. These raids are a big deal. I hadn't heard about the other raids at all. But I've got to say, Pat, I think I'll take Mike's word for it over yours.

    I read an incredible diary on the New Bedford raids here a while ago. I'll just excerpt a few quotes here and state that I think the diary is not just worth a read but a bookmark as it's very well sourced.

    "Stop the Raids": A Convergence of Truths in New Bedford
    by kyledeb

    "The federal government was storming the factory with one hand while writing checks to it with the other"

    "A Pentagon official visited the factory as often as four times a week and even had an office on-site"

    "We'd see him all the time," said Juan Tum, a Guatemalan who, along with his wife and brother, was arrested and detained during the raid. "He'd come and tell us we shouldn't complain about the work because it was better than being in Iraq."

    [The raid caused the state a] "Humanitarian Crisis"

    "The owner...never spent a night in jail"

    But I guess the diarist is wrong here:

    "Stop the Raids"

    Still, the raids continue. Even as ICE works behind a wall of secrecy it's clear that the mishandling of the New Bedford raid reflected a larger systemic problem with ICE's operations. Just yesterday the New York Times published an editorial entitled "Stop the Raids" after ICE grossly mismanaged another operation in Long Island, New York.

    New Bedford reflected more truths than I can ever hope to convey in one blog post. Chief among those truths is that we are all complicit in the illegality which migrants are being punished for. Whether it's the cents shaved off of our produce, the backpacks U.S. troops wear, the millions in government money that supported this operation at the same time that they destroyed it, the Pentagon's complicity in worker exploitation, ICE's botched operation, or the policies that have forced migrants into the U.S. in the first place. Ultimately, U.S. citizens are responsible for all of these injustices.

    Migrants, however, are the ones paying for it.

    At least according to Mike but not Pat. The diarist probably just failed to imagine that once the horse it out of the barn on this kind of stuff then all bets are off. I don't know if I would say I'm glad for what happened to Mike and so many others like him, but I'm glad that we can all agree that it's a huge problem and needs to be addressed - but quick.

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