Mar 19, 2007
On March 6, hundreds of federal officers raided a leather goods workshop in New Bedford, Massachusetts, which employed about 500 mostly female workers.
The workers were made to wait, handcuffed with plastic ties, for as long as nine hours. In the end, the cops rounded up 361 workers and took them to a former military base 60 miles away. By the evening, 207 of these workers, who the authorities said were suspected of being “illegal aliens,” had been put on airplanes and shipped to detention centers in Texas and New Mexico, each about 2,000 miles away! Ninety others were sent to various jails in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
In the meantime, more than 100 young children were stranded at schools or with baby-sitters or neighbors. One breast-feeding baby, whose mother was jailed, had to be hospitalized for dehydration.
Massachusetts social workers, sent 2,000 miles away to interview the women being held in Texas, said some mothers were so afraid their children will be taken away that they denied they have children.
The owner of the company – which makes backpacks and vests for the U.S. military under a 138-million-dollar contract, as well as high-end leather goods – was also arrested along with four others. They were charged with knowingly employing undocumented workers. But, unlike the workers they exploited, the bosses were immediately released on bail. The owner of the company was even allowed to travel to Puerto Rico on business.
So what was the purpose of this raid?
The Bush administration, like previous ones, has organized very few immigration raids. From 2001 to 2004, for example, the number of company officials who were served “intent to fine” notices was only 318, or fewer than 80 per year. Since 2004, the government has not carried out many raids, either – but they have been really spectacular.
The government makes sure that these raids are publicized widely. For the purpose of these raids is to send immigrant workers the message that they don’t even have the most basic human rights in this country; that they have to accept low wages and harsh working conditions, or else they will be deported back to their countries where there are no jobs at all. The government doesn’t want to prevent companies from keeping undocumented workers in a situation of near servitude – it wants to terrorize the workers to accept it.
The publicity around these raids is also intended for native-born workers – to create and fuel anti-immigrant sentiments among them; to spread the idea that immigrant workers “take jobs away” and cause wages to go down.
No, they don’t. The bosses do that, in their endless drive to lower wages and maximize profits.
The government helps these greedy bosses every way it can, not even shying away from throwing 100 young children in the street, putting babies’ lives in danger and terrorizing their mothers – hard-working women who contribute to society in exchange for little pay.
It’s only ironic that all this is done by the same Bush administration that claims to be the champion of “family values!”