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Federal class-action lawsuit filed in immigration raid [Postville]

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  • peaceandjustice2005
    www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-ia-immigrationraid-l,0,5106281.story chicagotribune.com Federal class-action lawsuit filed in immigration raid By AMY
    Message 1 of 1 , May 16, 2008
      www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-ia-immigrationraid-l,0,5106281.story

      chicagotribune.com

      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
      those children.

      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
      immediately returned.

      Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material
      may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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