Thursday, December 14, 2006

Swift justice?

ICE raids Hyrum plant By Tyler Riggs
Production was halted Tuesday morning at the E.A. Miller meat packing plant after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the 1,200-employee facility in search of suspected illegal immigrants.

Three buses, several Homeland Security transport vans and a large number of heavily armed ICE agents stood outside the Hyrum facility owned by Swift & Co., a Greeley, Colo., company. The raid in Hyrum was one of six that took place at Swift facilities throughout the U.S. The action by federal agents was the result of a nearly year-long investigation of employees at the meat packing plants into allegations that hundreds of people were using illegally obtained Social Security numbers and other identifying documents to obtain employment.

Pruneda said officials at the Hyrum Swift facility were cooperative with the raid, although officials at Swift’s corporate offices reportedly felt the actions at its six plants were a violation of their workers’ rights.

“Swift believes that today’s actions by the government violate the agreements associated with the company’s participation over the past ten years in the federal government’s Basic Pilot worker authorization program and raise serious questions as to the government’s possible violation of individual workers’ civil rights,” Swift officials wrote in a prepared statement. Contacts at Swift, the nation’s second-largest processor of fresh beef and pork, didn’t return calls Tuesday to The Herald Journal.

The raid started at about 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, Pruneda said, and coincided with similar incidents at Swift plants in Greeley; Grand Island, Neb.; Cactus, Texas; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minn. The six facilities represent all of Swift’s domestic beef processing capacity and 77 percent of its pork processing capacity.

Some of the suspect employees were escorted out of the building in handcuffs Tuesday, loaded into vans with white-painted windows on the west side of the facility. Other employees could be seen exiting the building and rushing into the arms of onlooking family members after apparently being released by the government agents.

Meanwhile, Swift security employees patrolled the area surrounding the scene telling members of the media to not take pictures or record video footage on the company’s property.

No charges had been filed against Swift.

“This is a good example of why Congress must develop a better way for businesses to check the citizenship of those they hire,” U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah told The Herald Journal.

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said the fallout of Tuesday’s raids could be traced back to government failing.

“This is a government problem and failing,” Bishop said. “The government should not shift its responsibility on to the business community, at least not until we have done what we need to do to secure our borders and make the process work.”


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