Scores of Illegal Workers Deported

Lawyers and activists say detainees may have legal rights, but they don’t know who is being held or where.

Greeley – Federal agents deported scores of illegal workers
Thursday, continuing their crackdown on the alleged hijacking of
U.S. citizens’ identities at Swift & Co. meatpacking plants here
and around the country.

At a court hearing in Greeley, headquarters for Swift, five
shackled workers in orange jumpsuits stood as Weld County District
Judge Gilbert Gutierrez advised them through an interpreter of
forgery and criminal impersonation charges they face.

Nationwide, more than 100 workers now have been arrested for
investigation of criminal charges ranging from immigration
violations to identity-related offenses as a result of the 10-month federal probe.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials couldn’t give a
breakdown of suspected crimes, but they said arrests on criminal
charges will increase as agents interview more detainees, building
their case.

Total arrests in Swift plants around the country topped 1,300 – but
most were for routine administrative immigration violations.

“This was a major identity-theft scheme that was taken down. It used to be people would use fake IDs. These are IDs with real numbers. Additional criminal charges will be forthcoming,” ICE spokesman Jeff Dishart said in

Swift officials who employed the workers at plants in Colorado,
Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, Texas and Utah have not been charged,
Dishart said. Whether Swift will face any charges in this case “is
hard to say. The investigation continues,” he said.

Meanwhile, immigration attorneys, religious groups and labor-union leaders lambasted ICE for causing unnecessary suffering. They
complained that lawyers interested in representing detained workers
who may have legal rights haven’t been able to learn who is being
held or where.

ICE agents have whisked detainees to various federal and county
jails that cooperate with the Department of Homeland Security. Many
have been returned to Mexico and other home countries under a
procedure known as voluntary departure.

“Perhaps the biggest tragedy is that many of the immigrants may
have felt pressured into signing papers, waiving their rights, and
may be in the process of being returned before they ever had a
chance to consult with a lawyer,” said Donna Lipinski, a
spokeswoman for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, a
pro-immigration advocacy group in Washington.

A Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network delegation visited the
regional Homeland Security detention center in Aurora and learned
at least 80 detainees at that facility had been sent out of the
country, said Kim Salinas, a Fort Collins-based immigration
attorney who participated.

Some detainees in Colorado were bused through the mountains west of
Denver to county jails in Salida and Fairplay that are approved to
hold immigrants when the federal facility is full.

Federal agents hauled in 62 workers from Swift to the Park County
jail in Fairplay, then took 38 of them away again before noon
Wednesday and the rest on Thursday, Park County Attorney Steve
Groome said. “We have no idea where they were going,” Groome
said. “We had to do some moving, but everybody had a bed. A lot of
them were picked up before they were processed.”

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 lawyers “can’t serve
our members, can’t provide them with legal counsel, because we
don’t know where they are,” said Dave Minshall, spokesman for the

Tuesday’s raid at the Greeley plant was overblown for a case that
led to 11 criminal arrests, Minshall said. ICE officials “brought
in a battalion – shotguns, bulletproof vests, snipers on a roof –
for 11 people? … Identity theft is a terrible thing. But 11

ICE officials defended their actions, asking for patience as agents
go about interviewing detainees as carefully as possible, gathering

“We don’t have 1,300 people to interview each of the people who
were arrested. We have a limited number of people, so the
processing takes longer than a couple hours,” ICE regional
spokesman Carl Rusnok said.

Detainees “will be able to get that legal access as soon as the
processing is complete.” They also have access to telephones “as
long as they pay for long distance,” he said.

Reality hit hard for the first detainees moving into courts.

In the Weld County courtroom, tears trickled down Karina Bartolo’s
face as she spotted her father Cirilo Bartolo in the crowd.

He’d heard from her once after she was arrested Tuesday during work
at the meat plant. She’d said she was surrounded by mothers crying
for their kids.

On Thursday, his daughter and the other four defendants asked Judge
Gutierrez for free legal representation. He set bail at $30,000

Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput sent out a letter concerning the
raids late Thursday.

“These kinds of raids do not and cannot fix our broken immigration
system. In some ways, they only aggravate our national confusion
over immigration policy. Our country needs comprehensive
immigration reform, and we need it immediately,” Chaput wrote in
the letter, sent to pastors across northern Colorado.

“Maria of Guadalupe told us that she came to hear and remedy all
of our sorrows. I ask her today to intercede for all our immigrant
families, especially those that have been broken apart by these