Jackson, MS – On Monday, workers and advocates from the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity (IAJE of Mississippi) and National Day Laborer Organizing Network publicly delivered a formal request for deferred action at the U.S. Department of Labor offices in Jackson, Mississippi.
On August 7, 2019, ICE carried out the largest workplace raids in its short history, targeting factories where workers had won a precedent-setting lawsuit for rampant racial discrimination and sexual harassment, and arresting nearly 700 indigenous immigrant poultry workers in central Mississippi.
The letter reads in part:
“The fear created by these retaliatory raids happening on the heels of this historic labor rights investigation cannot be overstated. Poultry workers throughout the region are rightfully terrified that their participation in any DOL or EEOC investigation will result in more adverse immigration actions. We are requesting that the DOL take immediate action to protect…”
“Two years later, the pain is ongoing, and the threat of deportation is constant. It’s time now to undo the harm, and to protect these workers,” said Erika Vazquez, a spokesperson for IAJE of Mississippi, who opened the press conference before a delegation delivered the letter to a US Labor official at the federal building in Jackson. “Today, we are asking, demanding, that labor officials take action to repair the harms committed to our immigrant and indigenous communities. It is a necessary first step.”
Before the delivery, members of IAJE shared the stories of families that are still separated and the increasingly difficult work at poultry factories, for little pay, and with the threat of deportation looming. One worker shared the memory of Edgar Lopez, a grandfather who was among those detained and deported, who was tragically kidnapped and murdered in northern Mexico, as he sought to return to his family in Mississippi.
“Mississippi’s poultry industry is telling of the national human rights crisis facing essential- and excluded- workers nationwide. But today, these courageous workers are also emblematic of the voices that must be lifted- and protected- so that we might address workplace abuse, wherever, and whenever it occurs,” said Cal Soto, National Workers Rights Director and Attorney for NDLON.
The letter to the US Labor Department and EEOC is requesting deportation forbearance and work authorization for Mississippi poultry workers impacted by the August 2019 ICE raids, and an end to all of the ongoing harms resulting from the ICE workplace raids – including reuniting families and removing ankle bracelets.
Read the full document here, submitted by the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity (IAJE of Mississippi), the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).