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Immigration Crackdown Results in 1,300 Arrests

An immigration raid of meat plants in six states resulted in nearly 1,300 arrests of illegal immigrants Tuesday. Julie Myers, of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Mark Lauritsen, of the United Food and Commercial Workers, share their views on the surprise raid.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Federal officials said today that yesterday's immigration raids at six meatpacking plants were the largest workplace crackdown ever. Each of the plants in Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas and Utah is owned by Swift and Company, the nation's second-largest beef producer.

    Nearly 1,000 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, some dressed in riot gear, rounded up 1,282 workers, many of them illegal immigrants who allegedly used phony documents to get their jobs.

  • MICHAEL CHERTOFF, Homeland Security Secretary:

    Good morning, everybody.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said some of the documents included stolen Social Security numbers.

  • MICHAEL CHERTOFF:

    Now, this is not only a case about illegal immigration, which is bad enough; it's a case about identity theft and violation of the privacy rights and the economic rights of innocent Americans.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Sixty-five of those bused away from the plants yesterday were charged with identity theft, the rest on immigration violations. One unidentified man spoke outside the Swift plant in Marshalltown, Iowa.

  • UNIDENTIFIED MAN:

    Everybody has to do what they have to do to make a living. I agree with that, that it's wrong, but at the same time it's not because, you know, we are human beings.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    The Swift plants were up and running again today, but company President Sam Rovit, in a statement, criticized the arrests, saying they "raised serious questions as to the government's possible violation of individual workers' civil rights."

    And at least one, in Grand Island, Nebraska, local police refused to support the federal raid, fearing their participation would antagonize the Latino community.

    But Secretary Chertoff said yesterday's raids are just the beginning.

  • MICHAEL CHERTOFF:

    The other thing that I'm hoping this is going to do is it's going to be a deterrent to illegal workers. It's going to cause them to say that, you know, "This happened in Swift; it could easily happen somewhere else." In fact, I'm pretty much going to guarantee we're going to keep bringing these cases.

  • GWEN IFILL:

    Immigration advocates have advised the arrested workers to remain silent and contact attorneys.

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