by Richard A. Webster, Staff Writer | October 21, 2011 | Source: NewOrleansCityBusiness.com
Day laborers marched on the offices of Daniel Sutterfield, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in New Orleans, on Thursday to protest an August raid that resulted in the deportation of four men and potentially 19 more.
On Aug. 28, Louisiana Home Elevations told 30 migrant workers owed more than $100,000 for two weeks of unpaid work to gather in the parking lot of a Kenner apartment building the next day to collect their checks, said Jacinta Gonzalez, lead organizer for the Congress of Day Laborers. When the workers arrived on Aug. 29, instead of getting paid, they were surrounded by ICE agents, Kenner police officers and Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputies, all of who had their guns drawn, Gonzalez said.
“Many of the workers were seriously injured during the raid and taken to the ,” she said.
Following the raid, the 30 detained men filed complaints with the Department of Labor, claiming Louisiana Home Elevations failed to pay them for work performed, as well as overtime. Some workers had been with the company for over a year without receiving overtime pay, Gonzalez said. They also claim the officers used excessive force, engaged in racial profiling and entered their homes with without warrants, according to complaints filed with the Department of Homeland Security’s Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Division
Gonzales said ICE officials deported four men, the most recent three on Wednesday, instead of using their discretion to dismiss the cases against the undocumented workers so they could further investigate the alleged civil rights violations. ICE is in the process of deporting 19 more, she said.
“The question is whether the government cares enough about ICE violating people’s rights to make sure these investigations happen thoroughly. Or do they want it to be a rogue agency that can do whatever it wishes?” she said.
Even more frustrating to Gonzalez is that ICE conducted the raid and is moving forward with deportation proceedings against men with no criminal histories despite a July directive from the Obama administration that it would focus its resources on deporting illegal immigrants with violent criminal histories.
“For them to engage in a raid that violates peoples civil rights and doesn’t protect their labor rights is just outrageous and goes against everything the Obama administration claims they’re trying to do,” Gonzalez said.