Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Del Monte raid: what more does it take to influence change?

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the Fresh Del Monte Produce processing facility in Portland on Tuesday, and almost 170 people were taken into custody for illegal immigration, fraudulent documents and identity theft.

The investigation began several months ago. Besides the Del Monte facility, agents also raided two Portland offices of American Staffing Resources, a company that helped provide the employees for Del Monte. The company, according to ICE, hired workers and provided them with fake identification papers.

At a time when the immigration debate is such a contentious issue and politicians grapple with it in Washington, the timing of this raid presents more fodder for both sides of the debate.

Those urging immigration reform for illegal aliens use it as an example of how destructive it can be to families when their parents are suddenly seized at their place of employment. ICE said that 32 of the 167 people who were detained were released for humanitarian reasons, such as being single parents. The rest were to be taken to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement processing center in Tukwila, Wash., and then sent on to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash.

Meanwhile, their emotional families gathered Tuesday outside the Del Monte plant and contacted advocacy groups such as the Immigrant Rights Coalition to try to find out might happen to their relatives. There were fears that families will split up and be deported to Mexico, and great uncertainty exists about children or other family members still in the U.S.

All this put a human face to the estimated 12 million people that may be illegally in this country. This was just a drop in the bucket, but it was drastic enough to draw an official statement from Portland’s mayor.

Tom Potter said he was angered by the arrest. “I certainly understand why federal officials executed criminal warrants against three individuals who stole and sold Social Security numbers,” he said.

“But to go after local workers who are here to support their families while filling the demands of local businesses for their labor is bad policy. It also serves as a reminder of the failure of our national leaders to deliver an immigration policy that is both fair and humane to families and acknowledges the economic realities of our country,” Potter said.

He added, “Our nation would be better served if this kind of energy was focused on creating a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship; addresses the immigration backlog that keeps families apart; and provides a safe and legal way for workers to enter our country and be productive workers and taxpayers. Immigrants provide more than mere labor in our community.”

These people were more than just labor. In a press release, ICE said about 90 percent of the workers hired by American Staffing Resources were using fraudulent Social Security numbers. The agents also found that some had criminal records, warrants for deportation, or had been previously deported — not exactly a great track record.

This fuels the other side of the debate for those that demand tougher measures against illegal immigrants and those who employ them, as well as why no amnesty should be given to people who have entered the country illegally. Ultimately, they will also ask for stricter enforcement of current laws.

The case shows what has developed down the food line, between the farm field and the dinner table. Some large companies have become so dependent on cheap labor as part of accepted business practice that they go the extra lengths to illegally hire these employees.

We can never condone fake identification papers given to illegal immigrants, especially to the extent that this investigation appears to have found. We also do not support companies deliberately seeking out or being in the business to arrange illegal immigrants to be employed here.

This isn’t a small struggling business that did this: it is Del Monte, who according to a story in The Oregonian, earns $3.2 billion per year, and is a “politically connected operation controlled by a wealthy Arab family. Incorporated in the Cayman Islands with executive offices in Coral Gables, Fla. … (its) global empire includes plantations in Kenya, Costa Rica and the Philippines.”

Of course, now fear will ripple throughout the food processing industry in the West as other companies and their employees wonder if similar raids may hit them next.

Meanwhile farmers will nervously watch their ripening, vulnerable crops this year and wonder what will be the repercussions of this raid in Portland: will more raids take place by government agents? Will all this scare off the already tight labor supply in the fields as well as the processing plants?

Finally, will the politicians care about this mess enough to seek appropriate solutions to this immigration mess before they leave for summer holidays? If they aren’t moved one way or another from this Portland example, what else will it take?

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Anonymous said...

yeah, I'm sure Gordon Smith is anxious for a solution. His crops are ripening....

Anonymous said...

Google connects of Fresh Del Monte to Marvin Bush, Jeb Bush, and W. interfering with lawsuit of their corporate victims. Check out Poppy Bush ties to United Fruit which became Chiquita -->the terrorist payers whose veep Joe Hagin worked for Poppy and still works for W. in OUR White House. I guess repub. terror sponsors are okay.
Get thruths out by getting tv and radio back to law which required EQUAL TIME. Get tough on monopolistic crony corporations -- they are unamerican. Look below at where their tendrils stretch to.
They make it unsafe to live in central & south america by using your taxes and CIA to overthrow fair govts. Folks flee and end up here -- as economic slaves.
Boycott. Call Congress & tell them STOP phony new bill --->enforce against Corporate Execs. Check the kitchen in your restaurants. Report abusers who HIRE them. And try advertising online or in newspapers for blacks, native Americans, etc. -- when you will need workers---US workers.
I'll pay more for food if it does NOT make economic slaves! Organize. Fix it. Citizens are supposed to run this country -- not the Dollar Royals.
Start a third party, elect Dems., or live with tyranny. Up to us.
"Fresh Del Monte's other products and services include its third-party ocean freight and United States trucking business; third-party plastics and box manufacturing business; Jordanian poultry business, and Argentine grain business. The Company's third-party ocean freight business allows it to generate incremental revenue on vessels' return voyages to its product sourcing locations. Fresh Del Monte's plastics and box manufacturing business produces bins, trays, bags and boxes. The Company owns a poultry farm and processing facility in Jordan. It is a provider to retail stores and foodservice operators in Jordan. Fresh Del Monte also grows grain on leased farms in Argentina, including corn. It owns and operates grain silos in Argentina for the storage of grain grown by third parties and the Company, which may be held for future sales."

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