ICE Refuses to Recognize Civil and Labor Rights in the South
by Natalie Patrick-Knox, Immigration and Workers’ Rights Campaign Organizer
Last week, six workers from New Orleans made the trip to DC to tell decision makers how they ended up detained and in deportation proceedings for standing up for their labor and civil rights. Sitting with Representative Gutierrez one of the workers, Melvin, told how he was hired to clean up after Hurricane Ike, but he and other workers were denied safety gear for working in toxic sludge – and then weren’t paid the wages they were owed. When Melvin helped organize a strike, his employer called the police. He was arrested and put in deportation proceedings – all for having the courage to speak out.
Melvin and the five other workers that came to DC represent a larger group of 32 workers from the South who have all suffered similar injustices. As is all too common, these workers were retaliated against for trying to organize themselves and for defending their rights. Because these thirty-two were immigrant workers ICE was used to limit their access to justice and they are currently on the verge of deportation.
Photo courtesy of New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice
The problem of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in workplace retaliation and the chilling effect it has on the rights of all workers has been widely recognized, but current policies to protect against such abuses are not working. The Southern 32 qualify for prosecutorial discretion under the civil rights provisions of the Morton Memo, but regional ICE officials have said they do not believe there are civil rights abuses in the South.
While current worker protection are being ignored, Jobs with Justice and our partners in the POWER (Protecting Our Workers from Exploitation and Retaliation) Campaign are working to support workers like the Southern 32 in their fight for justice.
Help us stop the deportation of the Southern 32: http://bit.ly/KizGb8
To read more stories from the Southern 32: http://www.makejusticereal.org/