Mississippi Free Press reports that House Homeland Security chair Bennie Thompson is urging Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release one of the hundreds of workers swept up during the largest workplace raids in a decade.
ICE initially detained Lladi Ambrocio-Garcia in 2019, following cruel and retaliatory raids targeting food processing plants across Mississippi. While hundreds of immigrants with roots in the U.S. were deported, no high-level corporation executive faced charges. Ambrocio-Garcia reentered the U.S. to reunite with loved ones but has now been detained by ICE for months. The Mississippi lawmaker is among those urging her release.
“I welcome the administration’s decision to end mass worksite enforcement operations and prioritize workplace enforcement against unscrupulous employers,” Thompson said in a letter. “I ask that ICE also consider providing relief to victims of previous mass worksite enforcement operations that targeted exploited workers.”
RELATED STORY: 230 workers deported, hundreds of others remain in limbo two years after Mississippi ICE raids
Thompson is pointing to a welcomed memo by the Biden administration last fall that announced an end to ICE’s workplace raids. This practice disproportionately punished undocumented workers while, again, leaving many abusive employers relatively unscathed. But while this practice of workplace sweeps has stopped, ICE is clearly still punishing victims of these raids.
”In a letter, Ambrocio-Garcia’s advocates described her health plight since her imprisonment,” Mississippi Free Press reported last month. “They wrote that Ambrocio-Garcia had suffered from COVID 19, as well as kidney infections on two separate occasions. ‘Today—as a direct result of ICE’s wrongful and retaliatory workplace raids—Lladi is detained at ICE’s Stewart Detention Center in Georgia.’”
Lumpkin’s Stewart facility has been called one of the brutal detention centers in the nation. Prism reported last year that four people at the prison had died of COVID-19 within the span of a few months, and disabled immigrants have said they’ve been hurled to the floor from their wheelchairs by abusive guards.
The fact is that Ambrocio-Garcia should have never been targeted by immigration officials in the first place. Southern Poverty Law Center has been among advocates noting that the raids were a retaliatory tactic against immigrant workers who had spoken out about workplace abuses. “Rather than screening and protecting them though, ICE arrested and deported potential worker victims and witnesses,” SPLC said.
Mississippi Free Press reported that advocates have repeatedly rallied outside Thompson’s office, in hopes he can “intervene to get Ambrocio-Garcia freed from ICE detention since he is the House Committee on Homeland Security chairman.” Thompson held a hearing the fall after the sweeps, noting at the time that children came home from school to find their parents were gone. When lawmakers pressed an ICE official on how many families were separated by the raids, he said he had no idea. "Do you realize how indicting that answer is?" Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee responded.
“We were out there; we were standing in front of the office,” Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity Labor Rights organizer Miranda Bolef told the Mississippi Free Press in advocating for Ambrocio-Garcia. “With our signs, we were showing that Lladi is still detained; this is still an injustice that’s happening right now.”
The Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ) said in a 2021 report that 230 workers were deported and hundreds more remained in limbo two years after the raids. “Many don’t have access to work permits,” MCJ’s Amelia McGowan told WLOX. “Many don’t have jobs. Many have suffered from COVID.” IAJE and NDLON said at the time that a worker who had been deported, Edgar Lopez, was horrifically kidnapped and killed attempting to return back to his own family in the U.S.
Mississippi Free Press reports that Ambrocio-Garcia was initially detained for more than a year before she was deported in 2020. Now again in ICE detention, she’s “reliving the trauma of her previous arrest and detention in Mississippi,” her sister Aura Ambrocio-Garcia said in the report. “Meanwhile, she faces serious threats on her life in Guatemala and is extremely afraid of returning.” Her advocates have collected thousands of signatures in her support. Click here to add your name and demand Lladi Ambrocio-Garcia’s release.
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