Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Immigrant raids: The Start of a Waiting Game?

In 2006, Ernesto Garcia was involved in an immigration raid in a northern Colorado meatpacking plant. He was one of the few that was spared and allowed to stay in the States. Many of his coworkers were forced to return to their native countries.

Today, he remains unemployed and still awaits trial for his immigration case to be resolved. As he waits for his case to go through immigration courts, he is barred from working. His only hope is getting a green card in his trial so that he may work and provide a life for this family in the States.¬† For these workers like Garcia and others¬† “waiting in limbo” means that they must rely on friends, family and charity often times from the Church in order to survive.

Julien Ross, director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, calls it a “sadistic” way to get immigrants to give up and go home.

“This is another example of why the raids don’t work,” Ross said. “It’s almost salt on the wound to have them wait for years for their cases to be resolved. And the government knows they can’t work.”

Immigration cases do not have the same “speedy trial” requirements as criminal cases. Denver’s four immigration judges each have up to 2,000 cases at a time, so delays are inevitable, said Christina Fiflis, an attorney who has represented some of the workers detained in the federal raid on the Swift & Co. plant in Greeley on Dec. 12, 2006.

“In many cases, the families will exhaust all options to see if they can remain in the country, especially families who have been here for a long time,” said Rosa Maria Castaneda, a researcher with the Urban Institute, a Washington-based group that tracks the impact of workplace raids.

Carl Rusnok, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency doesn’t know how many people arrested in raids are still in the United States waiting for immigration court hearings.

There is currently no provision in law to give temporary work authorization to those who have been found working illegally in the United States, and it is very common for immigration cases to take years when people appeal a decision by the immigration judge.

Associated Press