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  1. #1
    Administrator Jean's Avatar
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    Immigration Raids Cause Fear on New York Farms ... r=homepage

    December 24, 2006
    Immigration Raids Cause Fear on New York Farms
    ELBA, N.Y. — A cold December rain gusted across fields of cabbage destined for New York City egg rolls, cole slaw and Christmas goose. Ankle-deep in mud, six immigrant farmworkers raced to harvest 120,000 pounds before nightfall, knowing that at dawn they could find immigration agents at their door.

    The farmer who stopped to check their progress had lost 28 other workers in a raid in October, all illegal Mexican immigrants with false work permits at another farm here in western New York. Throughout the region, farm hands have simply disappeared by twos and threes, picked up on a Sunday as they went to church or to the laundry. Whole families have gone into hiding, like the couple who spent the night with their child in a plastic calf hutch.

    As record-setting enforcement of immigration laws upends old, unspoken arrangements, a new climate of fear is sweeping through the rural communities of western and central New York.

    “The farmers are just petrified at what’s happening to their workers,” said Maureen Torrey, an 11th-generation grower and a director of the Federal Reserve Bank’s Buffalo branch whose family owns this field and more than 10,000 acres of vegetable and dairy farms.

    And for the first time in years, farmers are also frightened for themselves. In small towns divided over immigration, they fear that speaking out — or a disgruntled neighbor’s call to the authorities — could make them targets of the next raid and raise the threat of criminal prosecution.

    Here where agriculture is the mainstay of a depressed economy, the mainstay of agriculture is largely illegal immigrant labor from Mexico. Now, more aggressive enforcement has disrupted a system of official winks, nods and paperwork that for years protected farmers from “knowingly” hiring the illegal immigrants who make up most of their work force.

    “It serves as a polarizing force in communities,” said Mary Jo Dudley, who directs the Cornell Farmworker Program, which does research. “The immigrant workers themselves see anyone as a potential enemy. The growers are nervous about everyone. There’s this environment of fear and mistrust all across the board.”

    In a recent case that chilled many farmers, federal agents trying to develop a criminal case detained several longtime Hispanic employees of a small dairy farm in Clifton Springs, and unsuccessfully pressed them to give evidence that the owners knew they were here illegally.

    Since raids began to increase in early spring, arrests have netted dozens of Mexican farm workers on their way to milk parlors, apple orchards and vineyards, and prompted scores more to flee, affecting hundreds of farms. Some longtime employees with American children were deported too quickly for goodbyes, or remain out of reach in the federal detention center in Batavia, N.Y., where immigrants are tracked by alien registration number, not by name.

    Federal officials say events here simply reflect a national commitment to more intensive enforcement of immigration laws, showcased in raids in December at Swift & Company meatpacking plants in six states.

    The effort led to a record 189,924 deportations nationally during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, up 12 percent from the year before, officials said, and 2,186 deportations from Buffalo, up 24 percent. It includes prosecuting employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, better cooperation with state and local law enforcement, and new money from Congress for more agents, more detention beds and quicker deportations.

    In small towns like Sodus, Dresden and Elba, where a welcome sign declares that the population of 2,369 is “Just Right,” some residents quietly approve of the crackdown. They are unhappy with the growing year-round presence of Mexicans they consider a drain on public services, resentful of the political clout of farmers, or concerned about the porous borders denounced nightly on CNN by Lou Dobbs. Others are torn, praising Mexican families but worried that some farmers exploit them.

    Farm lenders and lobbyists warn of economic losses that will be measurable in unharvested crops, hundreds of closed farms and revenues lost in the wine tourism of the Finger Lakes. On the other side, supporters of stringent enforcement expect savings in schools and hospitals, and a boost to low wages as the labor market tightens.

    The harvest of fear may be harder to chart, but it is already here. It can be felt in Sodus, where an October raid left a dozen children without either parent for days, and in vineyards near Penn Yan, where a grower of fine cabernet grapes reluctantly permits a worker to sleep in a car, hidden in the vines that he prunes. Everywhere, rumors fly about why one place was raided and not another, feeding suspicion and a fear of speaking out.

    For Rodney and Debbie Brown, the dairy farmers in Clifton Springs who lost 6 of their 10 employees to immigration arrests, the experience began like an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

    When no workers showed up at 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 28 to help milk 580 waiting cows, Mr. Brown went to the farmhouse where most of their Hispanic employees lived, only to find it eerily empty. Some of the workers had been with the Browns for more than seven years.

    “All of a sudden they were all gone,” Mrs. Brown said. “It was very scary.”

    Later, the Browns learned that agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement had been waiting for the workers in their driveway at dawn with state troopers, and had whisked them to the 450-bed detention center in Batavia, where there were 3,094 admissions this year. Like an estimated 650,000 immigrants in New York State and some 11 million nationally, the employees were in the United States illegally; the permits and Social Security cards they had shown to the Browns were fake.

    What prompts such raids is rarely disclosed. But federal officials have said that they pursue tips from the public, adding to uneasy speculation about private vendettas or political retaliation. Such talk abounded in Sodus, for example, after an October raid at Marshall Farms, a large breeder of ferrets and dogs for pharmaceutical companies. The consensus, several residents said, was that a disgruntled American employee had called in the complaint.

    More than 18 workers, many of them longtime employees with children in Sodus schools or day care, were summoned by name to the office from their jobs cleaning animal cages, and taken away — the men to Batavia, the women to unspecified county jails.

    “A lot of the employees down there were very heartbroken to see the women walk out with shackles around their feet and handcuffs chained around their waists, crying,” said Cliff DeMay, a large private labor contractor who supplies agricultural businesses in seven states with workers, and accepts their papers at face value — part of a system that has allowed deniability to everyone but the illegal worker.

    “The I.C.E., they’ve always picked up people on complaints,” he added. “It’s not the Border Patrol or I.C.E.’s fault. It’s the fault of our damn politicians.”

    But Mr. DeMay also echoed a widespread view that those who criticized the raids were asking for trouble.

    Others, including the Farm Bureau, pointed to the unusual intensification of the dairy investigation after Mr. Brown was quoted in a Sept. 11 Associated Press account. Michael W. Gilhooly, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, responded that raids were “carefully planned” and “result from investigative leads and intelligence.”

    Mrs. Brown, 46, said she was summoned to the federal building in Rochester and questioned for an hour and a half by immigration agents who threatened to subpoena her phone records. Federal prosecutors then brought felony charges against the workers for using fake Social Security numbers to get their milking jobs.

    But rather than turn against their former employers in exchange for leniency, as prosecutors wanted, the Mexican men pleaded guilty to felonies and accepted deportation, said Michael Bersani and Anne Doebler, lawyers who represented them in immigration court. Government lawyers would not discuss the case.

    Neighboring farmers, who helped the Browns milk, seemed shaken. “A lot of them say, ‘We should write letters to the editor, but we don’t want to draw attention to ourselves,’ ” Mrs. Brown said. “Everyone is very panicky.”

    Some have a different perspective. Ray Woodhams, 58, a Sodus resident who works at a Rochester hospital that was sued by Hispanic employees who were barred from speaking Spanish, said he was glad to read of the arrests.

    “The farmers have got their view, but they’re shortsighted — they’re not looking at the country as a whole,” said Mr. Woodhams, who notes that he is a registered Democrat and the son of a Dutch immigrant farmer. “The farmers say they can’t get labor. Well, if they paid a decent wage, maybe they could.” The Browns, echoing many farmers, counter that they have found no one steady to fill the vacant jobs.

    Many labor advocates, after years of fighting farmers for wage and hour protections, find themselves in an uneasy alliance with their old foes.

    “Suddenly everybody’s interest is the same: Save the lives of the migrants,” said John Ghertner, who is on the board of Rural and Migrant Ministry, an interfaith advocacy group. “From the farmers’ perspective, so they have labor. From our point of view, human rights.”

    The smaller the farm and the more settled the work force, the more wrenching the arrests. Or so it seemed as friends gathered around the wife of a vineyard worker arrested in Yates County four days earlier, on his way to prune vines he had tended for a decade. His three children, 14, 11 and 2, are all American-born.

    His wife, weeping, described how the agents who had taken him and two others into custody on the road circled back to the house to try to take her, too. As the agents banged at the door and tried to open it, she hid in the bedroom with the 2-year-old, she said, and put her hand over his mouth when he started to cry.

    Victor Feria Reyes, the state-licensed labor contractor who had dispatched the father and the others to the vineyard, said that throughout the Finger Lakes, his crews were down by half. “A lot of people hate us,” he said as his daughter Elenita, 8, leaned close. “They just say, ‘Take them away.’ ”

    The owner of the vineyard, who had lost three of his five workers to immigration arrests, called them “part of my family,” but begged not to be named. “I’m afraid of retaliation,” he said.
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  2. #2
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    Dec 2006
    Well if their employing illegals they ought to be afraid of the LAW! They ought to be ashamed of aiding these criminals. There is no sympathy here. And those in hiding ought to go back to Mexico and hide, because hopefully sooner or later the I.C.E. will find them. And if their part of the family like one said, then join them in Mexico!

  3. #3
    MW is offline
    Senior Member MW's Avatar
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    Immigration Raids Cause Fear on New York Farms
    As it should be!

    "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing" ** Edmund Burke**

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  4. #4
    Senior Member greyparrot's Avatar
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    May 2005
    The farmers are just petrified at what’s happening to their workers.
    Oh, and I am sure this benevolence is reflected in the excellent wage and benefit package they offer their "workers", eh?

  5. #5
    Senior Member loservillelabor's Avatar
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    Apr 2006
    Loserville KY
    As record-setting enforcement of immigration laws upends old, unspoken arrangements, a new climate of fear is sweeping through the rural communities of western and central New York.
    Now, more aggressive enforcement has disrupted a system of official winks, nods and paperwork that for years protected farmers from “knowingly” hiring the illegal immigrants who make up most of their work force.
    And all this time the citizens are paying salaries of officials giving nods and winks while pocketing political funds for violating their oath of office and failing to do their duty. Farm Bureau is out there now telling farmers how to be sneakier criminals. Enough! Time to be afraid and uncomfortable. We are bringing law enforcement to our bad neighbors.
    Unemployment is not working. Deport illegal alien workers now! Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

  6. #6
    Hawkeye's Avatar
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    Jan 1970
    For the most part NY and California, as well as many other states are sanctuary states. They really don't have to worry about ICE raids. Bush wouldn't allow it. We'll only see limited or token ICE raids, and they will only occur only in areas of the country where Bush can get local support for them. Under no circumstances will we see meaningful ICE raids in sanctuary cities like LA or NYC. These raids are nothing more than smoke and mirrors to garner support for his illegal alien amnesty program. He sees it as a give and take situation. We are seeing 5 to 10 thousand illegals pour over our border every single day. A thousand arrests every month or so really doesn't amount to much especially when in the next 6 months or so we will have another million illegals here. And Bush knows it. But it does give the appearance that he is finally breaking down and attempting to protect amercian jobs from illegals. Bush has his eye on the big prize. That is he wants to sell out our our poor for even cheaper labor from Mexico.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jan 1970
    North Carolina
    If you need 10 people to run a dairy farm, it's a pretty big
    operation!!! Farmer Mrs Brown can just suck up her tears & reduce
    her income to the amount of cows her lazy ass can milk without
    breaking our laws. I'm glad that they feel some pressure from
    their neighbors, but apparently very little shame.

    Hey, why don't they start growing weed -- I hear the profit
    margins are very good & as long as you're breaking the law ...

  8. #8
    Senior Member swatchick's Avatar
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    Aug 2006
    Miami, Florida
    If they were that worried they would hurry up and make as much money as they can and go back home. Why are they staying? We aren't dumb enough to buy that sob story.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member gofer's Avatar
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    Jan 2006

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