Saturday, September 02, 2006

Bellingham - Local Workplace Terrorized

Last Wednesday Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) Raided a business here in Whatcom County. I heard about it from a listserv on Thursday:
August 31, 2006
Alert! Local Workplace Terrorized

Bellingham, WA

Yesterday, Wednesday August 30, a group of Federal Officers from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) raided a local workplace and removed 28 workers. 40 Federal agents in bullet proof vests with weapons, terrorized the local business, quickly rounding people up, while two special agents from Seattle in dark suits and ties stood at the main entrance and monitored traffic coming in and out. These workers, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters were transported to a detention facility in Tacoma . One of the workers taken away is a pregnant Mom, her baby is due next week. According to eyewitnesses it was a traumatic experience filled with fear, people crying and others trying to keep calm. Five of the detained workers, including the pregnant Mom, were eventually released because they were identified as the primary caregivers of children.

Word of this raid has traveled quickly in our County and today there is a palpable chill in the immigrant and Latino community. We object strongly to Federal Enforcement agents from I.C.E., which is part of the Dept. of Homeland Security, coming into our community and terrorizing workers. There is a devastating ripple affect of this kind of "lawful" enforcement to immigrant families in Whatcom County . We cannot and should not tolerate this disrespect to our community from our Federal Agencies. This is our home and the folks terrorized yesterday are our friends, neighbors and contributing members of our community and as usual even our local authorities have no access to information about this incident. We in Community to Community are outraged, because we know that there is a more just and humane way to deal with immigration issues in our community. ...

- Rosalinda Guillen
Executive Director, Community to Community
I emailed Rosalinda and got some more details:
... These were not arrests - these were immigrant workers removed with excessive force from their workplace for deportation to their home countries, they are not criminals - there were 28 removed – 23 of them are now in detention in Tacoma at an I.C.E. Immigrant detention Center. And no none of the local media covered this incident and Sheriff Elfo and the Bellingham Police Chief knew nothing about it, until I called them and notified them

And finally this morning the local paper covered the story:
Saturday, September 2, 2006
Immigration agents raid firm
26 Mexican workers are arrested at Northwest Health Care Linen


Federal immigration agents arrested 26 Mexican nationals working at a Bellingham company Wednesday on suspicion of being in the country illegally, an official said Friday.

The raid took place midmorning at Northwest Health Care Linen, located on Strider Loop Road just off of East Bakerview and Hannegan roads. Armed with a sealed civil search warrant, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents entered the business to question employees, said ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice. ...

... Jim Hall, owner of Northwest Health Care Linen, said all of his 90 employees pay taxes and had completed I-9 forms. The company, which supplies linens for hospitals throughout Puget Sound, was shut down for two hours as armed agents in bulletproof vests interviewed workers, he said.

However, Hall questioned the need for Wednesday's operation. He said the agent investigating his business promised to give him a list of employees with questionable documents within 60 days. Instead, agents raided the business, which Hall described as an "extremely emotional event" that could have been avoided.

"It was just too bad that it was handled this way," he said. "It sure leaves a lot of questions for Whatcom County with what Homeland Security is doing." ...

concluding the article is a quote from the ICE spokeswoman:
"We see this as a very important part to restore the integrity to our nation's immigration system," Kice said. "We need to ensure people who are coming here are who they say they are."
I can't remember the last time there was an immigration raid up here in Whatcom County and this one seems awfully odd. I'm left wondering if this wasn't more about creating some talking points for WA-02 Democratic Congressman Rick Larsen's Republican challenger who thinks that the Minutemen border vigilantes are "a program that makes sense".

The Republican Congressional Hearing roadshow that blew through here a month ago didn't impress anyone. Actually the hearing exposed the lousy job Republicans have been doing:

...The U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Blaine sector, which includes the Peace Arch border crossing, remains 400 officers short, said Ronald Henley, the sector's chief patrol agent. While adding an unmanned aerial drone to patrol the border from the coast to Montana would help, Henley said technology could only do so much.

"It doesn't do any good to see anything at the top of the Cascades if I can't respond to it," he said. ...

... Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office told Congress that undercover investigators had entered the United States using fake documents repeatedly this year - including some cases in which Homeland Security Department agents didn't ask for identification.

At nine border crossings on the Mexico and Canadian borders, agents "never questioned the authenticity of the counterfeit documents," according to the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, ... (source)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what a shame when the authorities actually ENFORCE the laws, and go after people who ILLEGALLY enter and/or work in our country!

Your slanted views are akin to anarchy. Why bother having laws anyway?

Your characterization of the matter, using the word "terrorized", indicates you sympathize with those who do not respect the law.

If you don't like the rules, work with your congresspeople you support, like Cantwell and Larsen, to change the laws. But don't sit here and act as though there should be no laws other than those you agree with.

That is a very dangerous (and in my book, naive) position to take.