Category Archives: News Releases

Lawsuit Alleges ICE, DHS, and Vermont DMV Targeting Immigrant Leaders in Retaliation for Activism

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 14, 2018

CONTACT
Juan Gastelum, National Immigration Law Center, (213) 375-3149, [email protected]
Will Lambek, Migrant Justice, (802) 321-8393, [email protected]
Lia Ernst, ACLU of Vermont (802) 223-6304 x112, [email protected]
Jen Nessel, Center for Constitutional Rights, (212) 614-6449, [email protected]
Liz Valsamis, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, (213) 229-7115, [email protected]
Leah Lotto, National Center for Law and Economic Justice, (212) 633-6967, [email protected]

Lawsuit Alleges ICE, DHS, and Vermont DMV Targeting Immigrant Leaders in Retaliation for Activism

Migrant Justice leaders at risk of deportation for engaging in protected First Amendment activity

BURLINGTON, VTToday, Vermont-based Migrant Justice filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ― with the assistance of the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) ― conducted an unlawful, multi-year operation to surveil, harass, arrest, and detain the organization’s members and leaders. Those activities were undertaken in retaliation for plaintiffs’ First Amendment speech and assembly and in order to destabilize Migrant Justice and its successful organizing of Vermont’s immigrant farm workers.

The lawsuit claims federal immigration authorities targeted Migrant Justice leaders and members since at least 2014, as the organization was engaged in high-profile human rights organizing across Vermont and nationally. As part of a larger pattern of suppressing immigrant activism nationwide, federal immigration authorities infiltrated the meetings and private associations of Migrant Justice through the use of a civilian informant, invasively surveilled its members and mined their social media pages for information, and targeted, arrested, and detained no fewer than nine Migrant Justice members in direct retaliation for their activism.

“We come to the U.S. from countries with histories of political repression, and we thought that here our freedom of speech would be protected as we stood up to defend our rights,” said Enrique Balcazar, a Migrant Justice leader and plaintiff in the case. “It is clear that ICE is trying to silence the voices of immigrants in Vermont.”

The lawsuit alleges that the Vermont DMV assisted ICE and DHS in targeting Migrant Justice leaders after the organization worked to pass Vermont’s Driver Privilege Card (DPC) law in 2013, allowing state residents to obtain driving privileges regardless of immigration status. Documents obtained through public record requests show that when the plaintiffs submitted their DPC applications, the DMV sent their personal information directly to ICE, which compiled dossiers on Migrant Justice leaders, including their social media pages and media appearances. The records show DMV workers shared the plaintiffs’ information with ICE for discriminatory purposes, out of racial and anti-immigrant animus.

“Time and again, we’ve seen that when Vermont officials get entangled in federal immigration matters, civil rights violations are the inevitable result,” said ACLU of Vermont staff attorney Lia Ernst. “The fact is, DMV and other local officials have no legal authority to do immigration enforcement or to discriminate against Vermont residents ― but clearly that message still hasn’t gotten through.”

A 2016 investigation by the Vermont Human Rights Commission found that the DMV misused the DPC program to engage in a number of discriminatory practices, including falsifying information on applications. Even after the DMV implemented policy reforms, however, officials continued to share extensive information about DPC applicants of color with ICE. DMV officials repeatedly sent what they referred to as “South of the Border” names to ICE for potential investigation, while referring to immigrants in racist and derogatory terms, and scheduled appointments to facilitate immigration arrests.

“Migrant Justice leaders have worked for years to thwart discriminatory policing by local and federal officials,” said Trudy Rebert, a staff attorney at the National Immigration Law Center. “ICE and willing enablers with a history of anti-Latinx bias at the local DMV have resorted to weaponizing systems essential to community safety to target and suppress our plaintiffs.”

ICE has detained four prominent Migrant Justice leaders who are named plaintiffs in the lawsuit. During the course of the arrests, ICE agents harassed and intimidated plaintiffs, referring to one as a “famous person” because of his activism, and named an additional member who would be “next.” In detention, plaintiffs were forbidden from contacting a lawyer or anyone associated with Migrant Justice. Two plaintiffs were detained soon after leaving the Migrant Justice office. As part of its campaign to undermine Migrant Justice, ICE spread false information about the organization, including that staff were collaborating with the agency to locate and detain immigrant community members.

The lawsuit alleges that the arrests and detention are part of an alarming national trend of retaliation against immigrants’ rights activists. Since 2016, ICE has arrested no fewer than twenty high-profile leaders around the country.

“The federal government crackdown on political speech in Vermont is part of a national campaign to silence immigrants who criticize government officials and their policies,” said National Center for Law and Economic Justice Senior Attorney Leah Lotto. “Using their power to physically arrest and detain outspoken leaders is a shocking violation of our Constitution.”

Plaintiffs are seeking an injunction to prevent the defendants from targeting, surveilling, infiltrating, spreading disinformation, arresting, and detaining Migrant Justice members and to prohibit DMV employees from racially motivated sharing of information with federal immigration enforcement agencies.

“The federal government targeted Migrant Justice because of its historic and unrelenting advocacy on behalf of a vulnerable immigrant community,” said Center for Constitutional Rights staff attorney Angelo Guisado. “In so doing, ICE has weaved its way into the tortured counterpane of U.S. policy used to suffocate grassroots activism and to exert control over communities of color.”

On Wednesday, Migrant Justice members and supporters marched from the organization’s Burlington office to the federal courthouse, hand-delivering the lawsuit while rallying outside. Migrant Justice leaders and attorneys addressed the crowd. In recent years, the federal building has been a frequent site of such rallies; at times, hundreds have filled the streets to denounce immigration arrests and call for the release of detained community members

“The rule of law applies to everyone, regardless of one’s particular political position,” said Joel Cohen, a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. “An arm of the government should never be used to stifle the rights of speech and assembly or to discriminate against individuals based on their race or perceived immigration status.”

Plaintiffs are represented by the ACLU of Vermont, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, the National Immigration Law Center, and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP.

The complaint filed today is available at www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Migrant-Justice-v-Nielsen-complaint-2018-11-14.pdf.

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Voters Across the Country Choose to Correct Course

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 6, 2018

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, 202-384-1279

Voters Across the Country Choose to Correct Course

The National Immigration Law Center responds to the 2018 midterm elections

LOS ANGELES — U.S. news outlets project that Democrats will win the majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, following historic levels of voter participation in the 2018 midterm elections.

Votes were still being counted in some precincts, but turnout shattered previous midterm records from coast to coast, and voters made history by sending diverse leaders to state houses and to Washington.

Republicans, who held majorities in both chambers of the U.S. Congress since 2012, lost control of the House despite a late push by President Trump and some candidates to fearmonger and scapegoat immigrants in an effort to increase voter turnout among Trump supporters.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Tonight’s election results, on the whole, were a rejection of hatred and anti-immigrant extremists. This offers a renewed sense of hope that we can get back on the path to a more just and inclusive vision for our country. Tonight, history was made with the first Native American and Muslim women elected to Congress, the first Latinas in Texas elected to Congress, and the first openly gay male governor elected in our nation’s history. After two very destructive years under President Trump, voters turned out in record numbers to demand serious leadership from Washington and in their communities. We have an opportunity now to start to correct course toward achieving justice.

“The message from voters is loud and clear: We want competent, thoughtful leaders who are committed to our values and to finding solutions to our country’s most pressing needs that respect our democratic principles. We will no longer stand for the chaos and divisiveness that have characterized Trump’s presidency. And we will not tolerate elected leaders who cower in the face of relentless attacks on our democracy and pandering to white supremacists.

“Voters turned out not only to reject President Trump’s dangerous leadership, brash policymaking, and cynical, last-ditch efforts to stoke fear and racism, but also to support leaders who stand for inclusivity and who fight for all of us. In states and cities all across the country, communities voted decisively to protect access to health care and to ensure that the economy works for all us.

“From coast to coast, xenophobic candidates like David Brat in Virginia and Kris Kobach in Kansas saw their hate backfire. In Tennessee, a state official who blocked access to education was removed from office in favor of one who supports access to education for all. In Oregon, voters rejected a hateful attempt to strip the state of its anti–racial-profiling law. And across the country, women, people of color, and LGBTQIA leaders are making the halls of power more representative of the nation and communities they serve.

“Leaders with the privilege of power must now deliver on this more inclusive, more unified vision that works for all of us, regardless of where we were born, what we look like, who we love, or how we pray. They must hold the Trump administration accountable for their cruel and corrupt ways and defend our most cherished principles. They can achieve this by serving in their constitutionally mandated role of serving as a check and balance against an executive branch that has shown little regard for our communities or other branches of government. Tonight wasn’t the end of the fight — it was the beginning of a long, collective struggle toward dignity for all.”

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Latest Immigration Announcement Smacks of Racism, Desperation, and Cruelty

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 1, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 202-805-0375

Latest Immigration Announcement Smacks of Racism, Desperation, and Cruelty

WASHINGTON — President Trump held a press conference today to address a manufactured “crisis.” While he failed to introduce any concrete policies, Trump uttered several falsehoods about immigrants and politics, among other issues.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement.

“Sensing tough political headwinds, Donald Trump is doing what he does best: hijacking a media cycle to trot out another unlawful, unworkable plan that is designed not to make anyone safer, but to gin up his base before the elections.

“The show we saw today was desperate, cruel, and dripping with racism, and the majority of us are clearly tired of such antics. Voters have shown time and again that they are hungry for real leaders who are willing to provide practical solutions, not photo-op–loving PR stunts that are notable only for their cruelty and unworkability.

“The president’s remarks on the so-called migrant caravan are not dog whistles, because his message continues to be loud and clear: If you are not white, if you are poor, if you pray a certain way, if you were not born in this country, if you are a woman or trans person, then you are not valued.

“These attempts to divide us are beyond shameful and demonstrate that this administration is completely out of touch with the daily needs of people living in this country. We don’t need leaders who manufacture false crises and scapegoat nonwhite communities in an attempt to scare American voters. Our communities need better than this. We all — white, Black, and brown communities — must come together next Tuesday and reject these latest desperate attempts to divide and distract us from rebuilding our nation and ensuring that government works for all of us.”

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Trump Administration Indicates It Will Seek to Implement Latinx Ban at Southern Border

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 25, 2018

CONTACT
Hayley Burgess, [email protected], 202-805-0375

Trump Administration Indicates It Will Seek to Implement Latinx Ban at Southern Border

WASHINGTON — News media reported today that the Trump administration is considering a ban aimed at preventing certain individuals from exercising their legal right to seek asylum in the United States.

The news, which is alarmingly reminiscent of Trump’s early days in office, when he acted on a campaign promise to ban Muslims from traveling to the United States, comes as a group of mostly Honduran women, children, and men makes its way through Mexico to the southern U.S. border. With abundant news coverage of the group’s journey and the midterm elections just days away, Trump has fixated on politicizing the group’s plight, spreading racist lies to stoke fear and promising to shut down and deploy hundreds of additional military service members to the southern border.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“This is one more disturbing and dangerous development in a string of xenophobic attacks on immigrant communities. With this threat to ban Latinx immigrants, Trump is once again showing us that his racism-driven cruelty has no bounds, as he did with the implementation of the Muslim ban and separation of families at the border. Since day one of Trump’s presidency, he has made it clear that his administration will do anything in its power to make immigrants feel unsafe and unwelcome in this country.

“It is unconscionable that Trump continues to play political games while putting forth radical and extremist policies which will have real-life consequences for people seeking to exercise their legal rights to apply for asylum, as well as cause unprecedented economic harm to the vibrant U.S.-Mexico border communities that depend on migrants coming back and forth daily.

“We will continue to stand with our civil rights, Latinx, immigrant, Muslim, and refugee communities to fight these xenophobic and hateful attacks. We are strong. We are resilient. We will use every tool to stop Trump from undermining the Constitution and international laws and from instituting his administration’s agenda to impose a Latinx ban in any form. We call all communities to reject these policies of hate. We can and must be better than this.”

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Trump Anti-Family Regulation Draws 15,000+ Comments in First Week

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 17, 2018

CONTACT
– National Immigration Law Center: Juan Gastelum (213-375-3149) or Hayley Burgess (202-384-1279), [email protected]
– Center for Law and Social Policy: Tom Salyers (202-607-1074), [email protected]

Trump Anti-Family Regulation Draws 15,000+ Comments in First Week

Proposal would deny immigrants for meeting basic needs

WASHINGTON — A Trump administration regulatory proposal to effectively restrict immigration access based on income has drawn more than 15,000 comments since the legally required public comment period opened on October 10. Widely reported by the press, the “public charge” regulation would put people at risk of immigration denials if they use Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicare’s prescription drug assistance program, or other programs. The National Immigration Law Center and the Center for Law and Social Policy are coordinating a campaign to protect millions of immigrant families from this attack.

“This massive response shows that people see the Trump regulation for what it is — reckless, deeply unfair, and inconsistent with core American values,” said Madison Hardee, a senior policy analyst/attorney at the Center for Law and Social Policy.

Experts warn that the plan would worsen hunger, unmet health needs, and other problems by making immigrant families — including families with children — afraid to get the help they need. Comments opposing the regulation validate those concerns.

“I am applying for Green Card. I already dis-enrolled my child from CHIP out of fear since the draft policy floated around early this year. I pray every day nothing bad happens to my child,” wrote one anonymous commenter.

Advocates for economic opportunity and immigrant families charge that the proposal would put wealthy immigrants ahead of families and expand a policy that has been historically abused. Commenters also underscore those concerns.

“This rule is diametrically opposed to our most basic values as a nation and devalues the fact that many of our top doctors, scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs are the children or grandchildren of immigrants who came to the United States with little more than the clothes on their backs and dreams for a better future,” wrote Meredith Owen of Church World Service.

“My husband’s entire family arrived as widows and child refugees from the Holocaust. Many immigrants arrive in similar tragic circumstances in which they need to use the US’s social safety net,” wrote commenter Janet Rosenbaum.

Individuals who have submitted comments to date opposing the regulation include elected officials, physicians, food pantry and other human services agency administrators, and community voices. A week ago, advocates released a joint letter signed by more than 1,500 nonprofits representing a wide range of concerns, from housing to faith, hunger to immigrants’ rights.

Federal law requires that the administration give the public an opportunity to comment on this expansive proposal. Commenters are not required to give their address or divulge their immigration status. Concerned members of the public can learn more and submit comments on the proposal at www.ProtectingImmigrantFamilies.org through December 10, 2018.

Advocates observed that the pace of comments to date could put the public charge regulation on track to surpass the 50,714 comments received on a student visa training options regulation proposed in 2015. That proposal appears to have received the most comments submitted on any regulatory proposal by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“There is still much work to be done and only a few weeks to do it,” said Sonya Schwartz, a senior policy attorney with the National Immigration Law Center. “But it’s encouraging to see the American people raising their voices to resist Trump’s anti-immigrant, anti-family agenda and take the power back.”

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Trump Rule Rigs Immigration for the Super-Rich, Expands Abusive Policy to Put Families at Risk, Advocates Say

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 23, 2018

CONTACT
– National Immigration Law Center: Juan Gastelum (213-375-3149) or Hayley Burgess (202-384-1279), [email protected]
– Center for Law and Social Policy: Tom Salyers (202-607-1074), [email protected]
– Center for American Progress: Julia Cusick (202-495-3682), [email protected]
– National Domestic Workers Alliance: Natalia Jaramillo (786-317-3524),  [email protected]

Trump Rule Rigs Immigration for the Super-Rich, Expands Abusive Policy to Put Families at Risk, Advocates Say

Proposal Would Deny Immigrants for Meeting Basic Needs

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is soon expected to circumvent Congress, proposing regulations to effectively restrict immigration access, based on income. Widely reported by the press, the regulation would put people at risk of immigration denials if they use Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicare’s prescription drug benefit, or other programs. Experts warn that the plan would worsen hunger, unmet health needs, and other problems by making immigrant families — including families with children — afraid to get the help they need. Advocates for economic opportunity and immigrant families charged that the proposal would put wealthy immigrants ahead of families and that it expands a policy that has been historically abused.

White House aide Stephen Miller, architect of the administration’s child separation policy, is reported to have led this “public charge” effort. News reports indicate that the proposal was also developed by an advisor who has personal relationships “with prominent white supremacists and racists.” Historians have warned that public charge regulations have been abused in the past to deny otherwise-eligible applicants access to lawful immigration avenues, based on race and religion. Because it would almost exclusively affect family-based immigrants, the Trump proposal will disproportionately affect families of color, especially Latinos.

Federal law requires that the administration give the public an opportunity to comment on this expansive proposal, when and if it is formally proposed. Commenters will not be required to give their address or divulge their immigration status. Advocates will post updates on http://www.protectingimmigrantfamilies.org, as available.

Responding to the administration’s move, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the National Immigration Law Center, the Center for American Progress, and the National Domestic Workers Alliance issued the following statements:

“The proposal is reckless, deeply unfair, and inconsistent with core American values. It explicitly places a priority on well-off families and ignores families who have waited years to be reunited. This proposal says work and family don’t matter — only money matters. And at a time when one-fourth of children in America have at least one immigrant parent, it’s a direct attack on children. The good news is that by rising up together and fighting back — as we have done against other attacks — we can speak up for immigrant families,” said Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy.

“The Trump administration is trying to achieve through the back door what it hasn’t been able to do through Congress, which is to radically reform the legal immigration system. Through this rule, they want to restrict family immigration as the use of certain programs can prevent families from being reunited, getting a green card, or even becoming naturalized citizens,” said Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center.

“My immigrant mother worked hard to build a better life for herself and her children. But if this proposal had been in place, she likely wouldn’t have had that opportunity, and I wouldn’t be here today. Now, with the flick of a pen, the Trump administration hopes to deny others a chance at the American Dream. The changes to the public charge provision would fundamentally alter our system for family-based immigration. Public charge has a sordid history. It was abused in the past to keep out Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, Irish Catholics, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and unmarried women, among others. Once again, President Trump is prioritizing wealth over family and — just like his policy of tearing thousands of children from their parents at the border — undermining the fundamental values of our nation,” said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress.

“This is Trump’s latest plot to keep separating families. He is willing to put over 20 million children at risk of malnutrition and disease, just to push his anti-immigrant agenda. This change in rules will punish millions of low-income mothers like domestic workers who take care of our loved ones and our homes, yet often struggle to make enough to take care of their own families and rely on our democracy to keep their families healthy and safe. No parent should have to choose between feeding their children or keeping their family together. Tearing families apart is a choice that we don’t have to keep making,” said Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-chair of the Families Belong Together campaign.

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RECORDING of news teleconference (Sun., Sept. 23, 2018): https://www.nilc.org/families-news-conf-2018-09-23/ or https://wp.me/a7gMAF-4Ez

MORE INFORMATION on “public charge”: www.nilc.org/exec-orders-and-access-to-public-programs/

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Trump Administration Proposal Would Separate Immigrant Families, Harm Public Health and Wellbeing for All of Us

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 22, 2018

CONTACT
Email: [email protected]
Juan Gastelum, 213-375-3149
Hayley Burgess, 202-384-1279

Trump Administration Proposal Would Separate Immigrant Families, Harm Public Health and Wellbeing for All of Us

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration today announced it would propose a new rule that would prevent immigrant families on the road to U.S. citizenship from being able to secure permanent lawful immigration status if they utilize any of a vast array of health care supports, nutrition assistance, or other services. Previous versions of the proposed rule have been decried by public health officials, mayors, faith leaders, and anti-poverty advocates due to its breathtaking scope and the potential consequences of such a policy change.

On Saturday, Sept. 22, major news outlets announced the U.S. Department of Homeland Security would post the proposed rule for public comment in the Federal Register.

Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, issued the following statement:

“Building on the traumatic separation of families at the border, the Trump administration has taken another cruel step. This proposed rule change will similarly result in the separation of families and is just the latest assault on immigrant families. This is an inhumane attack on the health and wellbeing of so many families and communities across the country.

“How you contribute to your community — and not what you look like or the contents of your wallet — should be what matters most. This proposed rule does the opposite and makes clear that the Trump administration continues to prioritize money over family unity by ensuring that only the wealthiest can afford to build a future in this country.

“The Trump administration is using this regulatory backdoor approach because it attempted to enact its draconian agenda of restricting legal immigration through Congress — and failed. This rule change is radical and extreme, and it leaves the door wide open for potential abuse. All of us, regardless of where we were born, suffer when immigrants are penalized for trying to have their basic needs met.

“Whether by ripping families apart, enacting a Muslim ban, ending temporary protected status, or callously holding immigrant youth with DACA hostage to politics, the Trump administration has shown that its appetite for harming the immigrant community is insatiable. This latest attack on immigrants is a cynical ploy to deflect from its current political misfortunes and to attempt to scapegoat immigrants once again just in time for the midterm elections.

“In this case, however, we have the tools to fight back. The comment period for the proposed rule will provide an opportunity for all Americans, regardless of citizenship status, to tell the government that we oppose this rule change. Instead of using an administrative backdoor to attack immigrants, the Trump administration should work with Congress on legislation that would make our communities stronger and healthier. Our power is in our voice, and the time to use it is now.”

To learn more about the Trump administration’s proposed rule change, please visit www.protectimmigrantfamilies.org.

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MORE INFORMATION on “public charge”: www.nilc.org/exec-orders-and-access-to-public-programs/

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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