LatinaLista — This morning, the Department of Homeland Security's ICE division was busy.
The department fanned out over 8 states — Arkansas, Florida. Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Texas, Tennessee and West Virginia — to capture undocumented workers at worksite raids.
At least, at five of those sites, ICE had the full support of the employer, Pilgrim's Pride Corp, or so the company says.
The company that employs thousands at their chicken processing plants across the country, and who had been the target of a work site raid before, took credit for alerting the government to the fact that some of their employees were engaging in "immigration-related crimes," such as using bogus identity documents.
In a press release sent to Latina Lista, Pilgrim's Pride spokesman Ray Atkinson said:
â€¦Pilgrim's Pride cooperated fully with ICE and the U.S. Attorney's office to help them apprehend these individuals. In fact, it was Pilgrim's Pride that uncovered the identity theft situation in Batesville and notified the federal government, and we worked closely with them to identify those individuals who were apprehended at the Batesville site.
Yet, that's only one site and four other Pilgrim's Pride plants were raided as well. Also, ICE told local reporters in TN that the raid was part of a year-long investigation.
So, are we to believe that Pilgrim's Pride worked covertly for one year with the Department of Homeland Security to set up their own people?
If that's the case, then the Department of Homeland Security has done a great job in their goal of striking fear into the heart of the business community.
According to the Pilgrim's Pride spokesperson, a combined total of 400 employees were taken into custody at the targeted facilities. Pilgrim's Pride immediately terminated everyone who was taken into custody and said that they plan to fire anyone who is "found to have engaged in similar misconduct."
When asked by Latina Lista if the company also identified workers at the other facilities, aside from the Batesville facility mentioned in the press release, spokesman Ray Atkinson emailed the following statement:
We worked with ICE and the U.S. Attorney's office to help them apprehend these individuals.
Interesting that Pilgrim's Pride spent a year targeting 400 of their people as possible undocumented workers when in reality only 280 were arrested for identity theft and "other criminal violations in order to get their jobs." That leaves 120 people who were fired simply for being picked up.
On the heels of this sweep, Pilgrim's Pride takes great pride in saying that no charges will be filed against the company, since they helped so much in the investigation. Considering what the company went through before, it's no wonder they would bend over backwards to help.
Yet, it's rather odd that 400 people were picked up and only 280 arrested since, according to U.S. Department of Justice press release,
A federal grand jury in Tyler, Texas, returned multiple-defendant indictments on April 1, 2008, that remained under seal until todayâ€™s operation. The indictments allege that each defendant obtained and used the Social Security account numbers of others to obtain employment with Pilgrimâ€™s Pride Corp. If convicted, each defendant could receive up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The Department of Justice anticipates that a substantial number of those detained will be federally prosecuted.
The press release goes further:
During the investigation leading up to todayâ€™s operation, investigators identified numerous identity theft victims. The identity theft victims described to ICE agents a myriad of hardships they suffered as a result of having their identities stolen, including mistaken tax liens, denial of medical and social services benefits, and damage to their credit ratings.
â€œCriminal cases like these show how illegal immigration can leave behind a trail of victims,â€ said Julie L. Myers, Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE. â€œA significant percentage of identity theft is carried out by illegal aliens trying to avoid detection and gain employment. However, even under the least damaging circumstances, these identity thieves wreak havoc with the credit and tax histories of innocent U.S. citizens who spend years trying to repair the damage.â€
While not trying to minimize the hardships and nightmares that a stolen identity wreaks on its victims, I have to take issue with Ms. Myers' statement when she says - "A significant percentage of identity theft is carried out by illegal aliens trying to avoid detection and gain employment.."
According to a survey released in November 2007 by the Federal Trade Commission, only 1% of identity theft victims report their identity being used for employment purposes.
Since it's known that undocumented immigrants main purpose of using fake Social Security numbers is to gain employment then Ms. Myers seems to purposely exaggerate the facts to paint the undocumented worker as a hardened criminal intent on causing personal harm.
When in fact, it's been reported to be the opposite.
When given the opportunity to purchase the documents needed, undocumented immigrants do so willingly and gladly â€” even when they fall victim themselves to scam artists.
In the same U.S. Department of Justice press release, the government is obviously changing its tune in how they treat undocumented immigrants:
For those arrested solely on immigration violations, that information will assist ICE in making decisions about whether to detain the individual or permit a conditional humanitarian release. Similarly, the information will be provided to the relevant U.S. Attorneysâ€™ Offices and state social services agencies so they are fully informed about humanitarian-related issues that may arise in the individual cases being handled through the criminal justice system.
Coming under fire for their harsh treatment of undocumented immigrants surely was a factor in instituting this change - at least on paper. However, with the May 1 deadline approaching of a nationwide observance of the anniversary of the original immigration protest marches, some can't help but think ICE is trying to send a message.
However, don't they know that in a true democracy â€”Â the harder one tries to send an unpopular message, the louder the response undoubtedly will be.