BY HARVEY McARTHUR AND MAGGIE TROWE
SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota - A team of socialists touring Midwest meatpacking plants has learned of several raids by Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) cops in recent months.
Workers at the shift change at the large Swift hog plant in Worthington, Minnesota, which is organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), said dozens of Latino workers were arrested by the INS in February.
After an INS visit to the plant and a sweep of a nearby trailer park, more than 50 workers were arrested, most from the third shift cleanup crew. Some workers said they thought the immigration cops had received a list of workers to seek out from Swift management. UFCW members reported that a number of those arrested were Nicaraguan-born workers who have recently lost the temporary residence visas granted in past years. Many of the 1,400 workers at the Swift plant, the largest employer in the town of 10,000, are immigrants from Latin America, Laos, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and other countries.
Sixty miles west of Worthington on Interstate 90 at the John Morrell plant, we learned of another recent raid. On March 16 INS agents arrested 18 workers leaving the plant, where some 3,000 UFCW-organized workers are employed in pork and lamb slaughter and processing. The 18 were accused of using fraudulent immigration documents.
The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported that according to U.S. attorney Karen Schreier, the arrests "were the result of regular spot checks of employers that typically attract such workers."
The INS established an office in Sioux Falls last year, as well as in Des Moines, Iowa. There was already an INS office in Omaha, Nebraska.
The Argus Leader also reported two instances of INS arrests of immigrant workers traveling on Interstate 90, one in March and another in April, resulting in 31 arrests and deportations. These stepped-up INS raids are part of the Clinton administration's attacks on immigrant workers.
The Socialist Workers campaign team, which had a large sign reading "Equal Rights for Immigrants" in English and Spanish, received an enthusiastic response from many workers. In three plant gate sales at Swift, Morrell, and the Farmland pork processing plant in Albert Lea, Minnesota, workers bought one subscription to the Militant, two to Perspectiva Mundial, and a total of 24 single copies of the publications.
Supporters of the Militant went door to door through the large trailer park across the street from the Worthington Swift plant after the plant gate sale. Several people invited them in to sit down and discuss politics. Residents there bought three Perspectiva Mundial subscriptions, a Militant sub, and a copy in Spanish of the pamphlet Abortion is a Woman's Right to Choose.
Maggie Trowe is a member of UFCW Local 1149 in
Marshalltown, Iowa, and the Socialist Workers candidate for
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