It can happen here, union leader warns

WASHINGTON (PAI) – Continuing his crusade against repressive immigration enforcement raids on workers, United Food and Commercial Workers President Joe Hansen declared, “workers cannot sit back anymore and say ‘it cannot happen here’ because it has.”

In a fiery speech before a commission his union set up last year to travel the country and gather evidence on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency raids on worksites, Hansen declared the union campaign’s goal is nothing less than to preserve a key part of the U.S. Constitution.

Specifically, he said, it is to restore to workers protections guaranteed in the fourth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The amendment is the part of the Bill of Rights that bars unreasonable searches and seizures by the government.

“We now know it can happen to us because it has, in the ICE raids just over a year ago,” Hansen declared.

The government raided six meatpacking plants run by the former Swift & Co., Hansen told the panel, convened Feb. 25 at a hotel across the street from the White House. The GOP Bush regime ordered the raids at the plants where most of the workers are represented by Hansen’s union.

Thousands were rounded up and only 62 turned out to be undocumented. All the workers, nevertheless, were transported, many in handcuffs, to camps, sometimes hundreds of miles away, where they were held for hours without charges and denied food, water, access to toilets and permission to contact lawyers.

The Swift plants were crippled and the raids resulted in the death of the firm which underwent a forced sale to a Brazillian packer.

“Tens of millions of workers go to work every day without a concern or even an awareness that at their workplaces, without any warning, they could be swept up in massive raids conducted by heavily armed government agents,” Hansen said.

“Nothing will stop ICE abuse unless as workers and Americans we say: Work is not a crime. Workers are not criminals and we do not check our rights at the workplace door,” Hansen said.