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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 72/No. 28      July 14, 2008

 

'Militant' July publishing schedule
The Militant will publish just three issues in the month of July due to our summer schedule. Issue number 29 will print on Monday, July 7, and be mailed out on Tuesday, July 8. We will not publish the next week. Publication will resume with issue number 30, which will be mailed out on Thursday, July 24.

(lead article)
Workers and families protest Houston raid
Immigration cops round up 170 workers
 
Militant/Jacquie Henderson
Cesar Espinosa of Central American Resource Center addresses more than 80 protesters June 26 outside a clothing plant where an immigration raid took place the day before.

BY JACQUIE HENDERSON  
HOUSTON—“We must speak up against ICE and its raids that try to make criminals out of working women. This has got to stop!” declared Olivia Espinosa at a rally at the Mickey Leland Federal Building June 26.

Organized by unions, immigrant rights organizations, and churches, more than 80 people turned out for the rally to protest a raid the day before by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) against workers at the Action Rags USA factory in east Houston. Protesters marched around the Federal Building chanting, “We’re here! We’re staying! And we’re not going away!” and “íSí se puede!

Two days later another 30 protesters picketed the Houston Processing Center, the privately run immigration jail where workers seized in the raid are being held.

At 7:00 a.m. on June 25, in what officials boast is the largest workplace raid ever to take place in Houston, 200 armor-vested ICE agents surrounded the factory and herded more than 170 workers, about 70 percent of the workforce, into vans. An ICE helicopter hovered overhead in case workers might be hiding on the roof or grounds.

Four workers had to be transported to medical facilities for injuries suffered during the attack. ICE officials said of the 166 workers detained, 130 were female, including 10 who were pregnant.

ICE officials say they had been investigating the factory for more than a year for hiring workers suspected of being “illegal immigrants.” They report 135 of those rounded up were from Mexico, 12 from Honduras, 10 from Guatemala, and 8 from El Salvador.

The Chamber of Commerce estimates 420,000 undocumented immigrants are in the 10-county Houston metropolitan region. These workers make up a 10th of the local work force.

Relatives and friends rushed to the plant during the raid. A few workers whose relatives brought their papers to the plant were released.

“My mother-in-law is in there,” María López told reporters outside the plant. Francisco Luquín’s wife was also detained. “She got a permit to stay here,” he said. “We’ve got seven kids over here.”

ICE officials say that 73 of the workers they seized are being released because they are either sole caregivers of minor children, underage, pregnant, or have some medical condition. All, however, are under supervision and will have to attend an immigration hearing where a judge will decide if they’ll be deported.

Juana María Olvera, 35, was one of those detained at Action Rags USA and released because she is pregnant. “There are a lot of undocumented women working here, and a lot are single women who are working to support their families,” Olvera told reporters.

“My desire is the same as all the rest of us. We’re hoping for an amnesty so we can get legal permission to work,” said Olvera.

Under threat of deportation, some workers are being pressed to sign “voluntary departures” rather than risk losing a fight against deportation.

Teodoro Aguiluz, director of the Central American Resource Center (CRECEN), spoke at the rally outside the Federal Building, “This government continues to attack our people who are devoted only to honest work. We need to stop the raids and change these criminal laws.”

Ceil Roeger, a nun of the Dominican order, spoke at the rally at the immigration jail. She said that she attended both protest actions because they oppose injustice. If there is another action, she will be there too, she added. Protesters launched an Emergency Response Network which will meet July 15 at the Houston building of the Catholic Charities.

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