Category Archives: August 2018

Tennessee OSHA Slams Meatpacking Plant Where Massive ICE Raid Took Place with 27 Violations and $41,775 in Penalties

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 24, 2018

CONTACT
– Hayley Burgess, National Immigration Law Center, 202-805-0375, [email protected]
– Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, 646-584-5281, [email protected]
– Jen Fuson, SPLC, 334-956-8226, [email protected]
– Amy Lebowitz, National Employment Law Project, 646-200-5322, [email protected]

Tennessee OSHA Slams Meatpacking Plant Where Massive ICE Raid Took Place with 27 Violations and $41,775  in Penalties

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) has slammed the Southeastern Provision meatpacking plant in Bean Station, Tennessee, with $41,775 in fines and cited the company for 27 violations, 23 of which were categorized as “serious” because of the risk of physical harm or death posed to workers. These violations and investigations came to light after a raid of the plant in April, during which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents used aggressive, militaristic force to arrest nearly a hundred workers, including at least one U.S. citizen and others with work authorization.

The fine is among the highest levied by TOSHA and indicates the seriousness of the violations found by the state agency and the dangers facing the workers in the plant. The TOSHA investigation found that the company failed to provide even the most basic safety equipment and sanitary facilities, creating an extremely hazardous work environment for plant employees. Employees faced a wide range of injuries due to dangerous levels of noise, exposure to chemicals, faulty equipment, and poor sanitation.

Southeastern Provision has flagrantly violated laws that are intended to protect all workers in this country. In addition to these egregious safety and health violations, the company is currently being investigated by the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) for violations of wage and hour laws. The company’s owner agreed to plead guilty last week to criminal charges related to tax evasion and failure to pay workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. These charges resulted from his practice of paying his employees off the books and underreporting his employees’ wages to the state and federal government.

Copies of the TOSHA citations can be found here:

In response to this development, the following individuals issued these statements:

Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC):
“Meatpacking is already among the country’s most dangerous jobs, but Mr. Brantley failed to provide even the most basic protections, putting the health, safety, and lives of his employees at risk. When employers and the government hold the threat of deportation above workers’ heads, they are less likely to report dangerous conditions like those that persisted at Southeastern Provision. The administration’s escalating use of worksite raids has instilled a greater sense of fear in workers across the country, enabling employers like Mr. Brantley to dangerously cut corners.”

Jessie Hahn, labor and employment policy attorney, National Immigration Law Center (NILC):
“These citations confirm what we have known to be true through the firsthand accounts of several former employees. Mr. Brantley is intentionally and blatantly defying required workplace health and safety standards — and putting his employees in grave danger — in order to save himself money. Despite many employees suffering injuries and some having to seek treatment at the hospital, he did not keep any of the required records of injuries, he encouraged his employees to deny their injuries were work-related to hospital staff, and to date he has not taken any action to improve safety conditions. These citations are an important step, but much more must be done to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all Southeastern Provision employees now and in the future.”

Mary Bauer, deputy legal director, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC):
“Southeastern Provision knowingly endangered its workers by failing to adhere to basic worker safety and health laws. Although the company kept no records of worker injuries, we know people did get injured. Southeastern Provision also evaded federal tax laws and is under investigation for not paying overtime.

“Companies like Southeastern Provision that put profit over the dignity and safety of workers gain an unfair advantage over honest competitors who live up to their obligations under the law. Rather than ripping vulnerable and exploited workers from their families, detaining them, and threatening to deport them, the federal government should focus enforcement efforts on employers who put workers at risk and evade their obligations to pay taxes and pay their workers.”

Deborah Berkowitz, worker safety and health program director, National Employment Law Project (NELP):
“Instead of targeting and arresting the workers, this administration and Tennessee’s counterpart agencies must hold this employer fully accountable for violating not only tax laws, but for the egregious violations of basic worker protections done to simply inflate profits and undercut competitors. Employees at Southeastern Provision have experienced conditions and dangers that no worker anywhere should have to endure.”

###

Share

Rights Groups Respond to Charges Against Owner of Tennessee Meatpacking Plant Where Massive ICE Raid Took Place

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 17, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, National Immigration Law Center, 202-805-0375, [email protected]
Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, 646-584-5281, [email protected]
Jen Fuson, Southern Poverty Law Center, 334-956-8226, [email protected]

National & Local Civil Rights Groups Respond to Federal Charges Against Owner of Tennessee Meatpacking Plant Where Massive ICE Raid Took Place

MORRISTOWN, TN — James Brantley, the owner of Southeastern Provision, a meatpacking plant in Eastern Tennessee, pled guilty yesterday to federal charges of tax evasion and wire fraud. He is charged with evading nearly $1.3 million in federal payroll taxes over the past decade and neglecting to pay state and federal fees such as unemployment and workers’ comp premiums.

For years, Southeastern Provision has flagrantly violated laws that are intended to protect all workers in this country.  In addition to having been charged with tax evasion, the company is being investigated by both the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) and the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA) to determine whether its employees’ working conditions were inhumane and unhealthful. These charges came to light after a massive raid of the plant in April, during which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents used aggressive, militaristic force to arrest nearly a hundred workers, including one U.S. citizen and several who have work authorization.

As a country, we must stand up and demand that any company that abuses its workers be held accountable for its actions to the full extent of the law. All too often, workers bear the brunt of this abuse and are used as scapegoats, while companies are able to continue to operate without consequence.

Stephanie Teatro, co-executive director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC):
“We are glad that Mr. Brantley is finally being held accountable for some of his egregious employment practices. But these charges could have been brought by the federal government and a plea deal reached without bringing armed ICE agents into the town and ripping 97 hard-working members of the community from their families. In the four months since the raid, we’ve worked alongside the 97 families who had been the only ones to suffer any consequences from the investigation. The families are still struggling to recover from the devastation of the raid, including many whose loved ones are still being held in detention or who have already been shipped out of the country. By conducting mass worksite raids in Tennessee, Ohio, and Nebraska, the government is instilling fear in workers and making them less likely to report the kind of egregious working conditions that persisted at Southeastern Provision.”

Jessie Hahn, labor and employment policy attorney at the National Immigration Law Center (NILC):
“These latest charges and the pending investigations against Mr. Brantley shed light on a pervasive problem across the country in which the federal government has allowed low-road employment practices to go unchecked, leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The federal government has choices in how it enforces immigration laws, and in this case ICE’s decision to conduct a large, militaristic raid was reflective of a larger pattern of attacking and destabilizing immigrant communities. Contrary to ICE’s representation that this kind of enforcement is designed to combat worker exploitation, ICE’s use of fear and intimidation tactics has the effect of empowering abusive employers and driving immigrant workers further underground.”

Michelle Lapointe, senior supervising attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC):
“The federal government responded to this employer’s widespread and pervasive violations of the law by ripping vulnerable and exploited workers from their families, detaining them, and threatening to deport them. This is wrong. When workers live in fear of deportation, they are intimidated from reporting unsafe and unfair working conditions. Southeastern Provision had been circumventing basic employment laws for years, including taking advantage of workers by not paying overtime for working over 60 hours per week, exposing workers to health and safety hazards, and denying basic human dignity at work. We hope this employer’s punishment is a lesson to employers to treat all workers with respect and ensure safe and dignified working conditions. And we hope the federal government sees that terrorizing immigrants into silence creates space for bad actors like this employer to flout the law.”

Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP):
“Instead of targeting and arresting the workers, this administration and the state of Tennessee’s counterpart agencies must hold this employer fully accountable for violating not only tax laws, but for the egregious violations of basic worker protections done to simply inflate profits and undercut competitors. Employees at Southeastern Provision have experienced conditions and dangers that no worker anywhere should have to endure.”

###

Share

Trump Regulations Rig Immigration System for the Wealthy, Put Millions of Families at Risk

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 7, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, NILC, [email protected], 202-805-0375
Barbara Semedo, CLASP, [email protected], 202-906-8010

Trump Regulations Rig Immigration System for the Wealthy, Put Millions of Families at Risk

Press reports suggest Trump administration may soon propose sweeping change

WASHINGTON — Press reports suggest that the Trump administration may soon act unilaterally to put forward proposals that will restrict access to immigration for applicants with incomes under $60,000. The proposal, reported by NBC News and other outlets, places wealth over family, hard work, and potential as a criterion for who can contribute to the United States. For example, various leaked proposals would put immigrants at risk if they — or potentially their families, including children born in the United States — get health care under Medicaid or Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act) or if they get help that is crucial to putting food on the table for millions of working Americans under the Earned Income Tax Credit. Earlier reports estimated that the regulation would impact 20 million people or more.

Advocates decried the leaked proposed regulations during a press call earlier today. Quotes can be found below:

Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director, National Immigration Law Center (NILC):

“The Trump administration’s proposed ‘public charge’ regulation is a major component of Trump’s extremist anti-immigrant agenda that seeks to decrease the number of brown families in this country. Whether it’s separating families at the border or separating families who have deep ties to our communities and country, including U.S. citizen children, these are all cruel policies and a cynical effort to use immigration as wedge issue in the midterm elections.

“This proposed regulation is a perversion of our country’s values of family unity and fairness. No parent should ever have to make the impossible choice between feeding their children, giving them healthcare, and having a future in this country.

“We’ve seen abuses like this before in our history — whether it was turning away Jewish families fleeing the Holocaust or discriminating against Irish Catholics. We cannot let history repeat itself. By working hard and building better lives for their families, immigrants have made and continue to make our country stronger every day. We must stand by our neighbors, friends, and communities across the nation to ensure that every family in this country has the basics they need to thrive.”

Olivia Golden, Executive Director, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP):

“As we’ve seen in the separation of children from their parents on the border, the administration’s policies towards immigrants too often target children for the greatest damage. They are the ones who will bear the brunt of long-term damage as their families’ lives, health, and economic security are upended.

“The common theme across these policies is their cruelty and reckless disregard for long-term consequences. With 1 in 4 American children living with an immigrant parent, the damaging consequences affect not only children themselves but the whole country.

“Compromising a child’s ability to thrive is not only immoral, it’s deeply damaging to the future of our nation.”

Shelby Gonzales, Senior Policy Analyst, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP):

“One of our biggest concerns is that people who are eligible for programs such as health and nutrition will be frightened from participating in those programs that we know have immediate and long-term positive effects. As a result, we will see people who have medical needs forgo services, and families will go hungry.”

###

Share

Litigators & Stakeholders in DACA Legal Battles Discuss Strategy and Human Impacts Ahead of Texas Hearing

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 6, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, NILC, [email protected], 202-384-1279
Bruna Bouhid, UWD, [email protected], 202-850-0812
Sandra Hernandez, MALDEF, [email protected], 310-386-5768

Litigators & Stakeholders in DACA Legal Battles Discuss Strategy and Human Impacts Ahead of Texas Hearing

WASHINGTON — Legal experts and immigrant youth leaders today discussed what is next in the legal defense of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, and the enormous impact the cases will have on the lives of immigrant youth and their families.

Following a ruling Friday by the D.C. federal district court and ahead of a key federal court hearing in Houston this week, litigators explained the status of several DACA-related cases moving through the courts and the potential for ground-shifting developments on the horizon.

DACA recipients spoke about the importance of partial relief — now under threat — obtained through various legal victories, and the continued urgency for a permanent solution for immigrant youth following President Trump’s efforts to eliminate their DACA protections.

A recording of today’s call is available here.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said, “Thanks to the leadership of courageous DACA recipients, lawyers, and organizations who challenged Trump’s cruel and unlawful termination of DACA, more than 100,000 DACA renewals have been approved since January 2018, and tens of thousands more are in the pipeline. The relief provided by the courts so far — although limited and likely temporary — has been crucial, especially in the face of Congress’s failure to enact permanent protections for Dreamers. But now, even that limited relief has come under threat. The next weeks and few months could see developments in the courts that significantly alter the landscape for DACA recipients. It’s a critical time for DACA recipients, our communities, and members of the media to stay informed.”

Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said, “MALDEF is proud to represent the 22 courageous leaders and DACA recipients who have intervened to defend DACA in the Texas case because the federal government cannot be trusted to do so adequately. This is a significantly different case than the challenge to DAPA from two years ago, so we expect the courts to continue to protect DACA until the Congress selects leadership who will actually lead by acting to permanently protect these hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth who contribute so much to our country.”

Donald Verrilli, a partner and founder of the D.C. office of Munger, Tolles & Olson, and the U.S. Solicitor General from 2011 to 2016, said, “The government is hiding behind a weak and insubstantial legal rationale because it is unwilling to embrace the reality that it is abandoning DACA for reasons of policy, not reasons of law. This seems quite consistent with what the government is doing, for example, in the case — also filed by Texas — challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The government is unwilling to own its position that it is trying to use the courts to achieve. It is very hard to see that as anything other than a misuse of the judicial process to try to achieve policy objectives that once again the administration is not willing to affirmatively embrace.”

Greisa Martinez, deputy executive director of United We Dream and a DACA recipient, said, “Last week, D.C. federal district judge John Bates ruled that Trump’s decision to kill the DACA program was wrong — and we agree. When immigrant youth and our allies fought to create DACA to protect us, we knew that it was the right thing to do. From the start, the program and this idea that immigrants should be protected and not deported came under harsh attack from those who want to see mass deportation. In spite of this, the courts and common sense have shown that DACA works. As Trump tries everything he can to kill protections and feed more immigrants to his deportation force, Congress must vote to defund the deportation agencies and pass legislation to protect immigrants in a way that is permanent and clean from enforcement. In the face of uncertainty and danger, immigrant youth and our allies are determined to #LiveUnafraid and continue our fight to defend our communities.”

Eliana Fernandez, a DACA recipient and plaintiff in Batalla Vidal v. Nielsen and an immigration case manager at Make the Road New York, said, “I joined the lawsuit against Trump’s decision to end DACA to fight for my family and community. As a result of the injunctions obtained, more than 100,000 Dreamers like me have been able to continue renewing DACA, which provides us protection from Trump’s deportation force. As a mother, having been able to renew my DACA this past July means — for now — that I can continue to be with my children, have a job, pay for my mortgage, and continue to fight for my community.”

A recording of today’s call is available at https://wp.me/a7gMAF-4ze.

###

Share

Groups Challenge the Waiver Component of Trump Administration’s Muslim Travel Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 1, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, 202-384-1279, [email protected]

Groups Challenge the Waiver Component of Trump Administration’s Muslim Travel Ban

SEATTLE — In response to the June 26, 2018, U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus, Council on American-Islamic Relations – California, Iranian American Bar Association, Lane Powell PC, National Immigration Law Center, and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP, in partnership with the Council on American-Islamic Relations – Washington State, have filed a class action lawsuit challenging the Muslim travel ban waiver process on behalf of organizational plaintiffs OneAmerica and PARS Equality Center, as well as individual plaintiffs from all of the Muslim-majority countries subject to the travel ban.

The current waiver process is inconsistent and arbitrary, and so few visa applicants have actually been granted a waiver, that the process by which waivers are supposedly granted has become mere window dressing for the ban itself. This lawsuit seeks to hold the Trump administration accountable for its failure to implement a good-faith, lawful, and constitutional waiver process so that families who qualify for waivers under the terms of the presidential proclamation that established the ban actually receive waivers and are issued visas.

“We will continue our fight against Trump’s discriminatory Muslim ban, but, in the meantime, countless families are suffering needlessly due to the administration’s failure to implement a coherent visa waiver policy,” said Esther Sung, staff attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “We’re suing today to hold the Trump administration accountable.”

Since December 2017, countless individuals and families have been denied a visa and a waiver under the Muslim travel ban without notice of the process, an opportunity to submit evidence, or consideration under the waiver scheme. According to the U.S. State Department, only 2 percent of applicants have received waivers, and former U.S. consular officials have called the process “fraudulent.”

“The administration’s sham ‘waiver’ and its haphazard process have failed to provide a fair and meaningful opportunity for relief from the travel ban, which continues to separate families and upend lives,” said organizational plaintiff PARS Equality Center’s managing attorney. “The courts have been an important bulwark to protect the rights of those targeted by this administration’s discriminatory immigration policies, and we hope they continue in this important role today.”

The purpose of this lawsuit is to force the government to clarify and implement a waiver process for those individuals who would otherwise be permanently banned from entering the U.S. The plaintiffs are asking the court to require the government to provide a meaningful opportunity to access what is, for most, the only means to reunite with family under an otherwise permanent ban.

This lawsuit is part of a larger attempt to fight against the Muslim travel ban and represents affected communities for every Muslim-majority country targeted in the ban. Through this lawsuit and additional measures, the co-counsel organizations will continue to push for equity and accountability, and fight the travel ban through every possible avenue — in court, on the streets, and through mobilization and policy/legislative change. Having national travel bans on entire groups of people based on religious belief or countries of origin devalues America’s shared cultural emphases on equality and acceptance.

The complaint filed yesterday in PARS Equality Center, et al. v. Pompeo, et al. is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/PARS-Equality-Ctr-v-Pompeo-complaint-2018-07-31.pdf.

The exhibits attached to the filed complaint are available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/PARS-Equality-Ctr-v-Pompeo-complaint-exhibits-2018-07-31.pdf.

A recording of a telephonic press conference about this filing held earlier today is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Muslim-ban-waiver-lawsuit-teleconf-2018-08-01.mp3.

###

Share
111