BY JANET POST
MIAMI - Twenty-three immigrant workers were arrested and jailed in a brutal Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) raid here April 23 at the First Paragon Floral company. Four vans and 10 cars of armed INS and Border Patrol police swarmed the factory, beating and arresting workers from Chile, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Peru, and elsewhere.
The cops stormed into the plant demanding work documentation. According to the Miami Herald, one pregnant woman fainted after being shoved to the floor by the agents. Others were forced to sit on the wet floor of the plant, and some were reportedly held in a 34-degree cooler for 35 minutes.
Outside the factory, workers avoiding arrest received further abuse. On WSVN-TV news the INS agents were shown beating a woman in the back seat of a cop car and others on the ground. The use of force inside the plant was captured on company in-house cameras. That footage has yet to be released.
Lillian Soza, 37, described the raid to the Miami Herald: "Suddenly, out of nowhere, men, dressed in black surrounded us, and locked all the doors.... They were shouting at us, `Get down, get down on the floor now." Soza did not obey the order. "The officer raised his hand and said, `You better obey or I will smack you down.' I said, `Go ahead try it. I am legal and will sue you if you do.' " In response, Soza continued, "An officer grabbed me by the hair and threw me to the ground and kicked me in the back. Why am I treated like a wild animal?"
A worker was also arrested for pulling agents off Alina López, a 26-year-old company supervisor and legal resident from Cuba. López is charged with resisting arrest and assaulting the police.
Of the 23 workers taken to the Krome Detention Center here in Miami, 13 were released. Three are permanent U.S. residents, eight are eligible for work permits, and two posted $5,000 bonds.
Demonstrations immediately followed the raid - at the plant, at the INS Miami headquarters, and at the Krome Detention Center. Recognized political figures, including Alex Penelas, the Cuban-American mayor of Miami-Dade County, and Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart, have been forced to object to the brutality of the raids, though not the right of the INS to carry them out.
In a discussion with Militant reporters on the Miami raid, Francisco Javier Garza of the Farmworkers Association of Florida in Homestead, said that 64 farm workers had been recently arrested while boarding buses in the fields around Homestead, an agricultural area just south of Miami.
Janet Post is a member of the International Association
of Machinists Local 368.
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