Civil rights advocates in Mississippi have added their voices to the call for freedom for Lladi Ambrocio-Garcia, Mississippi Free Press reports. The former food plant worker was deported following a retaliatory workplace raid in 2019. When she attempted to reunite with her family in the U.S., she was again detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). She has now been held for months across numerous dangerous facilities.
“Let’s be clear, ICE deliberately targeted poultry factories where workers have denounced, and labor officials have confirmed, rampant abuse taking place,” including “sexual harassment and racial discrimination,” NAACP Interim Executive Director Charles Taylor said in the report. Plant workers have been punished through detention and deportation as zero high-level executives face charges.
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“Lladi’s case is emblematic of the crisis facing poultry workers in Mississippi’s chicken plants—the lack of accountability for abuse and the need for action,” Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Vidhi Bamzai said in the report. “These jobs have some of the highest rates of on-the-job injuries, sexual harassment, and degrading conditions of any industry in the country.”
Just days ago, my colleague Laura Clawson wrote that a House investigation revealed “that the meatpacking industry misled the public about the threat of a shortage and basically drafted Trump’s executive order keeping the plants open.” That included the Tyson head publishing a misleading, full-page ad across major newspapers. Clawson said that nearly 300 plant workers died in the first year of the pandemic, and tens of thousands more were infected with the virus.
Ambrocio-Garcia has previously suffered from the virus, but due to immigration detention. Since again being detained by ICE, she’s been held at the deadly Stewart Detention Facility in Georgia, and now more recently the Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, Mississippi Free Press said. COVID-19 raged inside this facility at the start of the pandemic. But because many of the workers at for-profit facility didn’t directly work for ICE, the agency didn’t publicly count them. Ambrocio-Garcia’s loved ones and advocates have continued to fear for her well-being.
“American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi Legal Director Joshua Tom, who described the Morton raid as ‘discriminatory,’ ‘bad policy’ and ‘unjust,’ also asked for Deffered [sic] Action for immigrant workers the 2019 raids affected,” the report continued.
“Discriminatory actions, like the ones that led to Lladi’s detention, separated families and traumatized communities; today, in May 2022, the consequences are still ongoing,” Tom said in the report. “The fact is that today there’s not been accountability for ICE’s operations in 2019 for families that were devastated.” This call for deportation protection echoes a plea made by advocates on an anniversary of the raids last year, which requested “forbearance from removal and a grant of work authorization” for impacted workers.”
Advocates at the time noted the retaliatory nature of the raid, which occurred one year “after one of the companies involved, Koch Foods, paid out $3.75 million to settle an [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] class-action suit charging the company with sexual harassment, national origin and race discrimination, and retaliation against Latino and Indigenous workers at one of its Mississippi plants.” Bamzai told Mississippi Free Press the workplace raids “represent the deliberate retaliation and silencing of workers in central Mississippi.”
House Homeland Security Chair Bennie Thompson has previously urged officials to release Ambrocio-Garcia, a call continued by civil rights leaders.
“Here’s what we know: the Department of Labor can do something about it. Secretary Mayorkas can do something about it,” University of Mississippi School of Law MacArthur Justice Center Director and civil rights attorney Cliff Johnson said in a release. “We appreciate your directive to end these massive workplace raids, but the truth of the matter is this—these words are not enough. They demand action. Rep. Thompson, we appreciate your letter but more must be done.”
“Whether you were born in Morton or south Mexico, in Canton or San Cristobal, an injustice to anyone in our community is an injustice to all,” Taylor said in the release. “That is why the NAACP calls on Secretary Mayorkas to take action to free Lladi, and to repair all the harms committed by ICE in Mississippi.” Click here to add your name to the petition demanding Lladi Ambrocio-Garcia’s release.
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