Attorney General Sessions ‘not shedding tears’ that 160 kids are left without a parent in Tennessee raids
On April 5, 2018 in a joint raid involving ICE, Homeland Security, the IRS Criminal Investigation Division and Tennessee Highway Patrol, 97 workers were arrested at the Southeastern Provision slaughterhouse in Bean Station, TN. In a blatant and immoral separation of families, these raids left 160 kids without a parent. What’s to become of these children?
“[It’s] not a political issue, but an issue of humanity; they deserve better than this,” said KC Alvarado of H.O.L.A. Lakeway, a community organization in TN.
Eleven of the 97 arrested were released as they had work visas; 54, including two women, were deported. Others got future court dates or statuses were unknown. A woman was detained for 12 hours who lived in the U.S. for 18 years. Dozens remain detained at a Louisiana detention center.
So how did this all happen? Before the actual raid, a search warrant was filed that suspected the owners of the Southeastern Provision plant of tax evasion and employing “illegal aliens”— undocumented workers. Federal authorities were informed and later discovered that $25 million in cash had been withdrawn from various bank accounts since 2008 by the owners or employees of the company.
The cash was used for payroll of many employees who were paid cash $10 an hour on a weekly basis. It is alleged that the company did not pay $2.5 million in payroll taxes to the federal government or report all of their workers’ payroll. The owners have attorneys to represent them. What about the families affected by this raid?
KC Alvarado said the community responded by raising and donating $25,000 within the first 24 hours of the raid to assist families with bills, rents, and telephone cards to call family members detained or deported—many were from Guatemala, Central America.
KC said about 90% of those arrested had been working at the plant or lived in the community for 10 or more years. Community groups and churches mobilized to find out where those arrested had been taken, without even a chance to say goodbye to their spouses and children. Some were sole earners of the household. A central location was set up to drop off food, diapers, donations, etc.
A second raid at a trailer park with a warrant for a person who had lived there for years ended up arresting the person who answered the door. KC commented: “These incidents have humanized the issue of immigration in our community.”
Many teachers reported the effects of the separation from the kids’ loved ones: “They are scared of being ‘sent away,’ or worse, left behind.” The Tennessee Immigrant & Refugee Rights Coalition stated: “The time is now for elected officials to investigate and intervene. This must be recognized for the emergency that it is and that hundreds of children, most of whom are U.S. citizens, deserve to be seen as Tennesseans in crisis.”
As if things were not bad enough, the Tennessee legislature passed HB 2315 on April 25, now awaits Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature. This proposed law would “force local and state government agencies to help with deportations, separating parents from their children and neighbors from their communities.
This bill will drive immigrant families into the shadows, divide our communities, and will not make us safer.” (From a letter to the governor asking for a veto of HB 2315, signed by 177 pastors and members of Tennessee faith-based communities.)
Also, a recent NBC poll found that six of 10 Tennesseans favored legalization over deportation for undocumented immigrants. These responses are happening in a county that in 2016 voted 77% for Donald Trump.
What can we learn from this legal, but immoral treatment? We must stop these immoral laws that are disrupting our communities! We are the modern abolitionists! Let’s connect our networks across the country to create an unstoppable movement for justice for human beings!