By Cindy Gomez-Schempp
Que Paso columnist
(Originally published in the High Plains Reader December 16, 2009 by Cindy Shawcross*)
Three years ago on December 12, 2006, a nationwide sweep of workers was conducted by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and hundreds of workers were detained in Swift food company processing plants across the country. These workers were suspected and charged with identity theft. During the sweep the workers were terrorized and even hid in vats of blood and entrails of slaughtered animals while ICE agents with heat-seeking devices hunted for them. Meanwhile, children at school were waiting for their parents, who never arrived, to begin the holiday celebration to the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Flash forward to 2009 when more than 500 organizations (including NAACP and the Episcopal church) called on President Obama to end the controversial 287 (g) program. These organizations denounced the 287 (g) program for converting local law enforcement officers into immigration agents; and compromising the public safety.
Local organizations in the FM area are also concerned about the deeply troubling effects that fear in our communities of color can have, and how they impact us all. As recently as last month, we learned that eight West Fargo restaurant workers were rounded up after officers responded to a noise complaint. In 2008 we heard about the 23 Fargo residents facing deportation after being trafficked and forced to work against their will while their traffickers went uncharged. There were two such stories in 2007; one where 26 roofers were detained after State, not Federal officials, were conducting “checks” of contractors in the area. The second such example was a story where a woman from Jamestown called local authorities when she suspected a local construction site had undocumented workers.
Of course, these were just some of the stories of raids and detentions (some erroneous) by local law enforcement of suspected undocumented residents. But the fear raised by the cost to taxpayers and local budgets, the costs to privacy, and the cost in public safety and funding for our communities, is one that local organizations are asking to address.These local organizations represent a range of issues (including civil rights, racial justice, and peace), and a large portion of our communities of color. For example, the negative effects of people boycotting the upcoming Census out of fear – and the decade long loss in funding for our local communities is one short term concern for the group. But other long term goals include strengthening the community trust with our local law enforcement.
Leaders from some of these groups will be available to discuss their recent meeting with local law enforcement leaders from West Fargo, Fargo, Moorhead and the Cass and Clay County Sheriffs on Friday’s HPR Radio Show from 8 to 9 p.m. on 1100 AM – The Flag. Tune in with questions or comments.
**Questions and comments: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Original publication in HPR under the author’s former last name Shawcross and email. Updates to HPR’s website have inaccurately changed the name of the post publisher and date. Original post date listed above.
**Current contact email updated.