Federal class-action lawsuit filed in immigration raid [Postville]
Federal class-action lawsuit filed in immigration raid
By AMY LORENTZEN
Associated Press Writer
11:13 AM CDT, May 16, 2008
DES MOINES, Iowa
Attorneys have filed a federal lawsuit requesting class-action status
on behalf of an unspecified number of immigrant workers arrested this
week during a raid at a meatpacking plant in Postville.
The lawsuit names the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division and
several government officials including Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff. It was filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the
Northern District of Iowa.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of an estimated 147 detained immigrant
workers and names three of the petitioners: Antonin Trinidad Candido,
Roman Trinidad Candido and Maria del Refugio Masias.
The U.S. attorney's office said Monday's raid at the Agriprocessors
Inc. meatpacking plant was the largest single Immigration raid in U.S.
history, resulting in nearly 400 arrests. A spokesman for the office
said he couldn't comment on pending litigation.
The lawsuit alleges that government agencies and officials violated
the immigrant workers' constitutional rights. Those rights include the
right to due process, which includes protections from arbitrary
prolonged and indefinite detention. The suit also states that their
rights to consult with counsel have been violated, among other claims.
Most of the immigrant workers are being held at local jails. In the
suit, lawyers are trying to prevent the workers from being transferred
out of the state, which has happened with immigrants who have been
arrested in similar raids.
The lawsuit claimed that such transfers "would interfere with and
effectively destroy the ongoing relationship between detainees and
their attorneys." It said the transfers would also deprive the
detainees of their rights to present witnesses and evidence and of
their right to pursue legal action against Agriprocessors for
violating federal laws.
The lawsuit claims that a senior Immigration official said the raid
was undertaken, in part, because there was evidence that the company
violated federal wage and labor laws and undertook criminal
enterprises that violated racketeering laws.
One attorney has interviewed detainees and, according to the lawsuit,
learned that Agriprocessors obtained false identification for
immigrant workers, improperly withheld money from employees' paychecks
for "Immigration fees," did not allow workers to use the restroom
during 10-hour shifts, physically abused workers and didn't compensate
them for overtime work.
It claimed that as victims of alleged crimes, the immigrant workers
would be eligible for certain visas that would let them gain legal
status. It said if they are transferred from Iowa, they would be
deprived of their rights under the Crime Victims' Rights Act.
"As victims they would need to participate in the investigations of
the alleged crimes and may be needed to testify as to personal
experiences," the lawsuit said.
It also claimed that some of the detained workers have spouses and
children that are U.S. citizens, and could be eligible for Immigration
relief because of their family ties.
The lawsuit noted that a number of immigrant workers' children have
been stranded with baby sitters and other caretakers as a result of
the raid, and that transferring the parents of the children would
hamper the process of lawyers and advocates who are working to help
It said Maria del Refugio Masias, one of the petitioners who is the
mother of two young children, and her husband, were both detained and
have not been told the whereabouts of their children. Transferring
them and other detained workers with children out the state would
cause undo hardship for the families, the lawsuit said.
Telephone messages left for those who filed the lawsuit, the Peck Law
Firm and the Dornan & Lustgarten firm, both of Omaha, Neb., weren't
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