Two years ago today, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided six meatpacking plants owned by Swift & Companyacross the United States. The tragic consequences of these raids are a stark legacy of the Bush administration’s eight years of disastrous immigration policy.
This anniversary is an opportunity to reflect on how those policies have failed America’s workers, and how this administration has continued to choose harmful publicity-grabbing raids over real immigration reform.
Thousands of innocent workers were detained, and untold numbers of families were split apart. The toll on local economies and thriving communities has yet to be completely tallied. But the fact that workplace raids are a dangerous and ineffective failure has been conclusively demonstrated.
In the aftermath of the catastrophic Swift raids, the UFCW founded the National Commission on ICE Misconduct and 4th Amendment Violations. Conducting hearings across the nation in 2008, the Commission heard disturbing stories from all walks of life about the raids devastating affects on the communities involved.
American citizens described being handcuffed for hours and "treated as a criminal," or a "prisoner" for showing up at work. One mayor described the situation in his town since an ICE raid as "nightmare." An elementary school principal in another raided community said "It was like a bomb had hit our school." Mothers were separated from babies, husbands from wives.
An effective immigration policy demands an end to these workplace raids, which disrupt America’s businesses and workers, and leaves worker advocates, community, and religious groups to clean up the aftermath. Comprehensive immigration reform is essential to fix this continuing fiasco--these politically-appealing but destructive raids.
The fundamental question posed by these raids strikes to the heart of the character of America. Will we be the country of democracy, inclusion, and participation? Or will we continue to allow contributing members of our communities to be marginalized?
At the UFCW, we’re hopeful that our leaders will implement real immigration solutions that meet the needs of our communities and America's workers.