For Immediate Release
ICE Raid Targets Immigrants, Breaks Apart Families
Statement by OneAmerica Executive Director Pramila Jayapal
WASHINGTON - On February 24, 2009, at approximately 9 AM, about seven Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents dressed in riot gear raided the Yamato Engine Specialists in Bellingham, Wash. ICE agents entered the facility with buckets of handcuffs and ankle chains. Twenty-eight employees were arrested, processed, handcuffed and questioned; three women were later released on humanitarian grounds. The remaining 25 employees-all immigrants from Latin America-were put (still handcuffed) on buses and taken to an undisclosed location. According to Rosalinda Guillen of Community to Community Development in Bellingham, attorneys who tried to communicate with ICE to provide legal assistance to arrested workers were not able to receive any information from ICE.
In previous raids such as the one in Postville, Iowa ICE spent $5.2 million or about $14,000 per immigrant. On Tuesday, no immigrant worker resisted arrest. They filed peacefully onto the bus, their hands and ankles chained. In this economy, it cannot be a government priority to spend $14,000 per person on a military raid. We ask that the government use its dollars in ways that build up our communities, businesses, and families, not in ways that tears them down.
Hauling off hardworking men and women in chains is not the way to solve our immigration crisis and is not going to help with our economic crisis. In this time of economic hardship, OneAmerica believes it is completely unacceptable for the Obama Administration to be executing raids on our workforce, businesses, and communities.
This was the first workplace raid under the Obama Administration and is a far cry from President Obama's promise to declare a moratorium on raids. As the President said in his speech on Feb. 23, ‘Living our values doesn't make us weaker. It makes us safer, and it makes us stronger.' We urge President Obama to act on our values. We need reform, not raids."
Our immigration system is broken. We are calling on President Obama and our 111th Congress to first have the courage to enact a moratorium on raids and then to fix the system fully-in a way that considers the clear contributions immigrants make to the U.S. economy and society in all sectors. We need comprehensive reform that recognizes the crucial contributions immigrants make to our nation, considers the demand for labor, and enables employers to legally hire needed immigrant workers. We need reform that gives a path to legalization, sets a minimum wage for all workers, and provides all workers with rights. We need reform that keeps families together. No child deserves to wave goodbye from the school bus and not know whether their mom or dad will make it home that night-or whether their parent will end up on a school bus of their own in chains, unable to support their family. No one wants to live in the shadows.
Here at OneAmerica, we're committed to the vision of a unified nation with justice for all. Our mission is to advance the fundamental principles of democracy, justice, and human rights at the local, state and national levels. We work with community partners and with partners across the nation to protect and strengthen fundamental American rights for all people-especially immigrants.