An Immigration Raid's Fallout in Colorado Three months ago, federal immigration agents arrested nearly 1,300 people in raids on six Swift & Company meat-packing plants. Some people were deported after the raids; others await court dates and are unable to work in the meantime.
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An Immigration Raid's Fallout in Colorado

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An Immigration Raid's Fallout in Colorado

An Immigration Raid's Fallout in Colorado

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This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Luke Burbank.


I'm Madeleine Brand.

It's been nearly three months since federal immigration agents raided six meatpacking plants around the country, and almost 1,300 workers at the Swift plants were arrested, that's about 10 percent of the company's workforce.

NPR's Jeff Brady reports on the fallout in Greeley, Colorado.

JEFF BRADY: Aurelia Lazrano(ph) received a lot of frantic calls right after the raid. She works for a group that helps immigrants. There was the case of the deported worker's car left in the Swift parking lot. Turned out that one resolved itself.

Ms. AURELIA LAZRANO (Immigrant Advocate): And then a week later, this gentleman came back.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LAZRANO: And, you know, I was kind of surprised that he made it back so soon.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRADY: He's not the only one who's returned so quickly. There are plenty of stories of deported Swift workers who've already returned to the U.S. illegally. Some workers were never deported in the first place. About half of the 1,300 employees were released and told to come back for a later court date. In the mean time, these folks can't work and many are relying on local food banks.

Mr. RICARDO ROMERO(ph) (Food Bank Worker): First things we'll ran out of is milk, meat and tortillas.

BRADY: Ricardo Romero is loading boxes with food. Up on the wall, there's a huge Che Guevara tapestry. This community center normally doesn't run a food bank, but these are desperate times.

Ms. FRANSCESCA PEREZ-VICENTE(ph) (Former Swift Employee): Spaghetti.

BRADY: Franscesca Perez-Vicente worked the morning shift at Swift. She's here illegally, she was arrested during the raid.

Ms. PEREZ-VICENTE: (Through translator) Later that night, they let me leave because I told them I have a small baby that I have to nurse.

BRADY: Perez-Vicente says she has a court date in a few weeks. Until then, she waits at home.

Ms. PEREZ-VICENTE: (Through translator) Right now, it's really difficult because we can't work. According to the lawyer, we can't go back because if they catch us again, it will all get more difficult.

BRADY: Joy Brewer says she'd heard all the sad tales, but she's not moved. She had one reaction when she heard about the ICE raids on the Swift plant.

Ms. JOY BREWER (Greeley resident): I was glad. I really am glad. We've got to start enforcing our laws.

BRADY: Brewer has lived in Greeley all her life. She's retired now and runs a ministry for the poor and homeless with her husband. She insists on giving everyone she meets a hug. But when it comes to illegal immigration, she's not so warm and fuzzy. What upsets her is the fact that many immigrants break the law to come here and work. She's made her opinion well known around town and city hall. Since the raid, she says, a few others have started to speak publicly, too.

Ms. BREWER: It brought some of the people that were scared to talk a little braver. And it kind of gave hesitance to the illegals, and it was very, very effective.

BRADY: A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, says recent raids also have put employers on notice. In a few cases, business owners and managers are facing criminal charges for knowingly hiring workers who are in the country illegally. No charges have been filed against Swift managers. It appears the company made reasonable attempts under federal law to ensure its employees were here legally. But the raids have cost Swift a pile of money, about $30 million in lost production and for hiring and training replacements. Company spokesman Sean McHugh says there's one silver lining to this whole thing, it's been pretty easy to find replacement workers. The widespread news coverage of the raids let a lot of folks know that Swift is hiring.

Mr. SEAN McHUGH (Spokesman, Swift): So, we've seen application rates at nearly all of our facilities, rates that are up between 50 and 100 percent over normal levels.

BRADY: The company has tweaked some of its hiring procedures and says, once more, it will make every effort to make sure those new employees are here legally.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, Denver.

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