Immigration: Breaking News in Colorado

It’s a banner day for immigration news around the state. Concerns about legal work status, an immigration raid in meatpacking plants, and costs of enforcement to thwart illegal immigrants from receiving state services are making the rounds. From the Greeley Tribune:

Law enforcement officials have sealed off 8th and 7th Avenues around the Swift & Co. beef and lamb packing plants. There are several police cars and buses parked around the beef packing plant.

The move is an apparent raid of the plant by federal agents.

According to news reports, a crowd estimated at  several hundred have gathered at the Swift plant in Greeley attempting to block Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) buses and vans from removing employees from the facility. Greeley police have been called to the scene to disburse the crowd.

Swift & Company which is headquartered in Greeley, relased a statement [PDF] this morning:

Operations at the affected Swift facilities have been temporarily suspended pending the anticipated end-of-day completion of the interview process. Shortly thereafter, Swift expects to resume operations, but production levels will depend on the number of employees, if any, detained for further interviewing or otherwise unable to return to work.

At this time, Swift cannot assess how, if at all, the results of the employee interview process will affect its business or results of operations. Any loss of a significant number of employees at any facility could adversely affect the operations of that facility until Swift is able to replace any lost members of its workforce and return to normal production levels. The six facilities represent all of Swift’s domestic beef processing capacity and 77% of its pork processing capacity. The Company also operates a pork processing facility in Louisville, Kentucky.

Swift believes that today’s actions by the government violate the agreements associated with the Company’s participation over the past ten years in the federal government’s Basic Pilot worker authorization program and raise serious questions as to the government’s possible violation of individual workers’ civil rights.

The Rocky Mountain News is reporting that state labor officials want Colorado employers to use a national database to verify legal work status of new hires.

In A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Congressional Hearing, Colorado Confidential profiled testimony by local employers, including Swift representatives, at a local field hearing hosted by Rep. Marilyn Musgrave on September 6.

The federal online database called Basic Pilot program has come under fire for inaccuracy, false negative hits denying work status to legally eligible workers of up to 50 percent and long delays in verification of work status.

Lynn Bartels of the Rocky Mountain News also reported today that Rep. Bernie Buescher is concerned that the Colorado Department of Human Services has spent an estimated $250,000 on enforcement of HB 1009 and HB1023 which requires proof of citizenship to access human service programs or to obtain business permits with little cost savings to the state in return.

More information on the Swift packing plant raids will be posted as it becomes available.

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