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$1.17M settlement awarded to migrants after Trump Admin raid

By Lee Cleveland - March 2, 2023

TENNESSEE – Immigrant rights advocates rejoiced on Monday when a federal judge issued an unprecedented $1.17M settlement over a 2018 workplace immigration raid at a meat processing plant. This is believed to be the first-ever class action settlement of its kind in the U.S., affording compensation to approximately 100 people who were victims of former President Trump’s policies.

A majority of the plaintiffs are entitled to compensation of more than $5,700 each. Also, up to $475,000 will be distributed among six individuals who were the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee found eligible to be compensated for “negligent or wrongful acts by agents of the federal government,” The New York Times reported earlier this week.

“They used the pretext of a tax investigation of the plant’s owner to plan and carry out a full-blown operation targeting the Latino workers,” Michelle Lapointe, deputy legal director for the NILC, told the Times on Monday.

Several ICE agents invaded the plant, snatching up dozens of Latino employees and violently detaining them. The agents separated them from their Caucasian co-workers and physically attacked several even though the warrant that had been issued did not authorize arrests.

Of the many Latino employees, only one managed to evade the raid by hiding in a meat freezer.

Most of the workers detained were placed in deportation court proceedings and at least 20 were deported shortly after the raid.

In the wake of the raid, more than 150 children were impacted due to their parents being deported. Subsequently, the city of Morristown came together to assist the immigrant community – they gave legal advice, made donations, helped trace detained relatives, and provided childcare.

The NILC called the legal victory handed down on Monday “a testament to the power of community organizing to protect workers’ rights.”

“Today’s ruling is a testament to the incredible power and resiliency of immigrant workers and their communities,” said Lisa Sherman Luna, executive director at the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.

“Violent enforcement tactics like workplace raids are designed to keep immigrant families living in fear, but these plaintiffs and class members refused to stand by when they knew their rights had been violated. This settlement sends a clear message: No matter who we are or where we are from, we all deserve the freedom to work and live safely in our communities.”

Meredith Stewart, the senior supervising attorney of the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project, labeled the ruling as “unprecedented”. She further noted that the settlement conveys a strong message to everyone that racial profiling will not be condoned in this nation.

Republished from Common Dreams (Julia Conley, staff writer) under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).