August 27, 2008

Reports Of Government Discrimination And Secrecy Trigger Scrutiny

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org  

LAUREL, MS - In the wake of the largest workplace immigration raid in the country that involved the arrest of at least 600 workers and reports that raise grave concerns about the actions of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Mississippi officials, the American Civil Liberties Union began an investigation of ICE's conduct and called on the Bush administration to ensure that constitutional rights are scrupulously respected going forward. Staff from the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project arrived in Mississippi today to assess the situation firsthand. 

"We are deeply concerned by reports that workers at the factory where the raid occurred were segregated by race or ethnicity and interrogated, the factory was locked down for several hours, workers were denied access to counsel, and ICE failed to inform family members and lawyers following the raid where the workers were being jailed," said Mónica Ramírez, a staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project who has traveled to Mississippi to meet with family members and lawyers about the government's actions.    

On Monday, ICE agents raided a factory located in Laurel, Mississippi owned by Howard Industries Inc., detained at least 600 workers and transported the arrested workers to a federal immigration detention facility in Jena, Louisiana, nearly 200 miles from their homes and family. Some of the workers who are parents of small children were released with an electronic monitoring device and ordered to report back to an ICE office. A few of the arrested workers have been charged under the same criminal statutes used by the government in the recent Postville, Iowa raids that were heavily criticized for the mass prosecutions and assembly-line guilty pleas that the government employed. 

The ACLU of Mississippi and the national ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project are also working closely with organizations and advocates in Laurel, Hattiesburg and Jena to monitor the government's actions, assess the conduct of the raid and ensure compliance with the constitutional requirements of due process and non-discrimination.

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