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  1. #1
    Senior Member
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    Mar 2006
    Santa Clarita Ca

    Swift raid aftermath: Success or human tragedy

    Swift raid aftermath: Success or human tragedy
    By Jennifer W. Sanchez and Tom Harvey The Salt Lake Tribune
    Article Last Updated: 02/08/2008 05:48:04 PM MST

    Click photo to enlargeLuis Becerril Almanza bakes toqueras or "sweet bread" every... (Leah Hogsten/The Salt Lake Tribune)«12345»

    The Other Side: Life after the Swift Raids
    Feb 9:
    The Other Side: Life after the Swift raidsImmigrant profiles: In search of a better lifeBusinesses need immigrant workers but extremists 'are stirring the pots of hatred'Year after raid, Cache mightily divided over immigrantsSwift worker fallout: The pain behind the stolen identitiesLA HUACANA, MEXICO -- It's easy to spot folks around here wearing t-shirts from Utah brew pubs and companies, or trucks sporting University of Utah stickers.
    This town hidden among the tropical mountains in central Mexico developed a veritable pipeline of workers decades ago to the Swift meat-packing plant in Hyrum, Utah. The company provided steady employment and good wages for immigrants, but most of them worked in the Cache Valley illegally, using a stranger's name to collect a paycheck.
    Many families in La Huacana once depended on money sent from Utah. Not anymore.
    On Dec. 12, 2006, U.S. immigration agents entered the Swift plant, arresting 154 undocumented Multimedia
    Swift Raids
    What happened during and after the raids on the Swift plant in northern Utah.
    La Huacana
    A look at life in the small town in Michoacan.
    Artemio's Story
    Artemio and much of his family were caught up in the Swift raid; now they are together in Mexico.
    Lorena's Story
    Back in Mexico, Lorena works almost constantly to provide for her children on less than a dollar an hour.
    Marco's Story
    Marco came to Utah to provide for his parents and sisters, but has never met his own child.
    Veronica's Story
    Veronica risked everything to return to the US after being swept up in the 2006 Swift raids.

    Latino workers and charging all but seven of them with violating federal and state identity fraud statutes and immigration violations.
    The raid almost instantly disrupted the stream of workers from La Huacana to Hyrum, separated parents from children and divided a community already struggling with simmering racial tensions. It has left Cache County's Latino community, which makes up 9 percent of the population, feeling nervous and insecure. For many, the raid prompted a reappraisal of the lives they had built there. There is less eagerness to try and put down roots.
    The raid, the largest targeting a single company in U.S. history -- some 1,300 undocumented workers were arrested during the raids at Swift plants in Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Minnesota, Texas and Iowa -- also sent shockwaves through Utah businesses. In one day, the vulnerabilities of Swift and other companies that have grown dependent on immigrant labor were baldly exposed.
    With the continuing failure of Congress to pass meaningful immigration reform measures, the Swift raids a year later stand almost as a monument to the intractability of the immigration issue in the United States. Caught The long journey between LaHuacana, Mexico, and Utah. (PDF) (Todd Adams/The Salt Lake Tribune)in the vise: the nation's estimated 12 million undocumented people and the businesses that hire them. Both now exist in a state of mutual dependence based on an illegal practice.
    State lawmakers in Utah and elsewhere have attempted to fill the vacum, responding to the feds' inaction with laws or proposed laws of their own. But the issue continues to scream out for a national solution.
    The raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) against the Swift plants marked the biggest push by the agency or its predecessor against businesses.
    "We consider the operation a resounding success," said Tim Counts, a spokesman for ICE based in Minnesota. "It removed nearly 1,300 people who had assumed the ID of a U.S. citizen or a legal resident, and in each of those cases had caused untold complications of that person's life."
    Last year, the agency arrested 4,077 people -- 32 percent of them in the Swift raids. That nationwide total represents an 869 percent leap in workforce enforcement arrests in the last five years.
    However, in the Swift raid, only one company official has been arrested -- a human resources employee in Iowa, charged with harboring illegal aliens. Asked why almost all company officials had escaped charges, ICE spokespersons said only that the investigation is ongoing.
    Swift & Co. was bought in July by the Brazilian meatpacker JBS S.A. The company turned down several requests for interviews.
    Although ICE arrested roughly 1,300 undocumented workers nationwide during the raids, only 23 percent of them faced federal or state charges. About half of those were prosecuted in Cache County.
    In fact, while Utah had the second lowest number of arrests nationwide, it had the highest number of cases that were prosecuted.
    ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said it was up to local prosecutors whether to invest substantial resources and prosecute cases. Counties other than Cache County involved in the raid didn't pursue as many, if any, cases.
    "It was extraordinary work by Cache County," Kice said.
    Tony Baird, chief prosecuting attorney with the Cache County Attorney's Office, said prosecuting the Swift cases was "an extremely big undertaking to do for my small office." But, he said, Cache County prides itself on following the "rule of law" because it leads to having a safer community.
    Three of the seven county attorneys are assigned to the raid cases, which increased the office's annual felony case load by 10 percent, Baird said.
    "How do you say no, we're not going to prosecute crime because it's too hard?" he asked.
    Of the undocumented workers arrrested in Hyrum, 73 percent of them were Mexican. ICE declined to say how many were deported. And at least a dozen of those deported already have returned, illegally, to Utah.
    Of the 147 people who had charges filed against them, only about half -- the ones who were turned over by ICE to the state for prosecution -- were tried and sentenced. Warrants have been issued for the arrest the others, most of whom were deported by ICE before they could see a judge.
    "If they weren't turned over to us, there was no way for us to proceed, so there's still a warrant for their arrest," Baird said.
    Baird said local law enforcement officials are not actively searching for the undocumented Swift workers with warrants, but if they're picked up on another violation they will be tried on their raid charges.
    After working at Swift for five years, 40-year-old Lorena Velazquez Solis was deported the day after the raid. Even though she's back in La Huacana, she said her old neighbors tell her that "police" have come by the trailer park in Hyrum looking for her. Lorena assumes it's about her warrant.
    "Why are they looking for me, if they're the ones who threw me out of the country?" Lorena asked.
    Artemio Diaz Hernandez, 32, of Mexico, was deported after serving 59 days in jail and also learned later he had a warrant. He said he never even got a traffic ticket in the decade that he had lived in the United States.
    Velazquez and Diaz want to know how they can clear their names. They're both worried that U.S. law enforcement officials might come looking for them in Mexico.
    "That's ridiculous," Baird said. No one will go get them in Mexico, he added. The only way they could remove their warrant and be tried is to return to Cache County.
    Most Utahns have never heard of the place, but the La Huacana area, in the state of Michoacan, is home to many Mexicans who live and work in Utah.
    La Huacana is about 250 miles west of Mexico City and has a population of around 10,000 people. The only paved road is the two-way highway that runs through town. Some trucks and cars cruising around town sport license plates from Utah, California, Oregon, Texas and Ohio. There are very few street signs and no street lights.
    Every few blocks or so, there's a family that makes and sells sweet bread and another that runs a corner store stocked with Cheetos and Cokes. There are a few family-run restaurants open during the day, but for dinner, people sell enchiladas and tacos from their homes. Dogs, some in packs, straggle around the neigborhoods as men push carts selling cooked corn on the cob with powdered cheese and chile. Most homes, which stand like row houses, don't have front yards, and their heavy, metal front doors meet the cracked sidewalks.
    In El Naranjo de Jorullo, a village about 10 miles from La Huacana, farmers depend on corn fields for food and money, just as they have for generations.
    Chickens, dogs and pigs roam and cattle amble along dirt roads. There are only about six phone lines among the some 200 houses. No one has a computer. Most homes, some made out of dirt and palm leaves, have outhouses and a big cement cistern, where folks use containers to get water. Sometimes, when the water runs out, people rely on the creek down the hill.
    Former Swift worker Velazquez[Lorena Velazquez Solis, 40,] who grew up in Naranjo, now lives here with her three children and earns about $160 month from selling enchiladas from her home.
    "Here, we suffer, but at least we're together," she said.
    Some of the Mexicans who were deported left behind their $13-an-hour Swift jobs and returned to La Huacana to work as maids, landscapers and servers for about $1.35 an hour. (A medical doctor with about five years experience in La Huacana makes roughly $8 an hour.)
    Elma Alcantar Sandoval, 45, used to depend on about $300 a month that her son sent her from Utah to support her two daughters. But when he was deported after the raid, she had to get a job as a maid working six days a week.
    "Without him, I don't have any help," she said.
    There's still work for undocumented workers in Utah, but a year later the Hyrum Swift raid has left in its wake an atmosphere of nervousness, uncertainty and frustration; not only among undocumented workers and their families but also in industries statewide that employ them.
    Salvador Jimenez, the Mexican consul based in Salt Lake City, called the raid a "human tragedy," saying that Mexicans in Utah now live in fear.
    "Our people are more afraid now because of that action," he said.
    In Logan, customers line the counter at La Huacana, a store named after the Mexican town. But they aren't buying cowboy boots or Mexican music CDs. They're lining up to send money back home.
    Jaime Mendoza, the store's owner, said a year after the raid his business has evolved to mostly sending money back to Mexico. Skittish workers aren't investing their wages in homes and are buying old beaters instead of newer vehicles.
    "What's happening in Logan is the money is leaving," Mendoza said.
    That uncertainty about the future is shared by many within industries that employ tens of thousands of immigrants in Utah, home to an estimated 100,000 undocumented people.
    The immigrant workforce is vital to areas of the state economy, such as construction, landscaping, and food services as well as meatpacking, according to business leaders and experts. Business owners say they remain caught in a Catch 22. It's illegal to knowingly employ an immigrant not authorized to work in this country, yet they say they need the workers.
    The political process aimed at reforming the nation's immigration systems has stalled between the demands of business for a reliable workforce and the voices of anti-illegal immigrant groups who don't want any type of amnesty.
    "This system is a train wreck," said Clark Ivory, chief executive officer of Ivory Homes, the state's largest homebuilder.
    Utahns such as Robert Wren, chairman of UFIRE, a Utah group demanding enforcement of the nation's immigration laws, opposed the immigration reform bill that failed to pass the U.S. Senate in June that would have provided a path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants. The group feels betrayed by the federal government for not enforcing immigration laws after passage of the 1986 reform act, which created an amnesty for undocumented immigrants who had been in the country at least five years.
    "We're already doing enough of that with the benefits we are providing them and allowing them to get away with identity theft that they do all the time in order to get even a semi-legitimate job," Wren said.
    For ex-Swift worker Diaz, the chances to legally return to Utah are slim to none.
    He doesn't know anyone who's ever applied and gotten a work permit. He doesn't even know where he would begin the process. It would require him to chance hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on the application process that takes years and years. The application fee alone would cost him two weeks worth of his salary. But, he'd love to figure out a way to work in Utah legally.
    "If I knew how to do it, I'd already have it," he said.
    Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

  2. #2
    Senior Member Richard's Avatar
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    Apr 2005
    A process saving and continuous reinvestmestment have a better long term effect even at Mexico's lower wage levels than does living and workin in another country where both wages and expenses are higher. The smartest thing that the Mexicans of Huacana could do is to keep farming like their neighbors at Naranjillo and use the savings from not having to buy their food to invest in farm upgrades, warehouses and factory shells. The remittance checks should be used to further the goal not on consumption. If the Mexicans do this then they will eventually pick up their incomes to match that of the places they are moving to illegally without having to move at all.
    I support enforcement and see its lack as bad for the 3rd World as well. Remittances are now mostly spent on consumption not production assets. Join our efforts to Secure America's Borders and End Illegal Immigration by Joining ALIPAC's E-Mail Alerts network (CLICK HERE)

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