Imploring that it’s time to “impose some humanity,” Farm Labor Organizing Committee President Baldemar Velasquez joined other local activists in denouncing the raids during a Thursday morning news conference in Toledo.
The raids at Corso’s Flower and Garden Centers constituted the largest Immigration and Customs Enforcement sting in a decade, emblematic of the Trump administration’s recent focus on targeting illegal immigrants in the workplace, as well as their employers.
Although opponents of the raid have been vocal in recent days, others have lauded the rise of deportations under the Trump administration.
“The people were very clear when they voted for President Trump. They want the border security wall done, they want to end chain migration, they want the visa lottery, they want to deal with sanctuary cities,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican from Urbana who represents Ohio’s 4th district.
Jordan’s district contains half of Erie County, where the raids took place.
After Tuesday’s raids, Jordan in a statement said:
“America is a nation of immigrants. Those immigrants helped to form the most compassionate nation on earth, but they also formed a nation built on the rule of law. We will keep working to find solutions that secure our borders, provide a permanent fix to the DACA issue, and improve our immigration system to make it fairer for those who want to come here legally.”
On Tuesday, border patrol vehicles blocked off the entrances to both Corso’s locations and helicopters provided aerial assistance as ICE agents rounded up workers and ushered those without proof of citizenship onto buses bound for detention centers in Michigan. No criminal charges have been filed against the employer, but ICE agents removed boxes of files and computers from the locations. Detainees could be charged with identity theft and tax evasion, officials have said.
Lawyers from the Toledo-based civil rights firm, Advocates of Basic Legal Equality will work with the detainees to connect them with legal aid, including a team of lawyers set to visit them at the detention center Friday, managing attorney Eugenio Mollo told The Blade.
Activists, members of the Hispanic community, and government officials agreed during Thursday’s news conference that American values were compromised during the raid.
“This is about human beings and who we are as a nation,” Velasquez said.
In Toledo, which is designated a “welcoming city,” meaning the local government can limit collection of information about immigration status and aid immigrants, elected officials condemned the raids.
“What happened in Erie County flies in the face of everything we’ve stood for in northwest Ohio,” Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken said in an interview with the Blade. He challenged authorities to find one criminal among the detainees.
“Show us one member charged with a crime. Show me one who’s a gang member or drug dealer,” Gerken said.
To some, though, residing and working in the country illegally is a crime practically on par with gang membership and drug dealing. And some claim the three are intimately tied — a stance advanced by President Trump during his campaign and presidency.
Brutalities committed by members of MS-13, a Los Angeles-based gang with ties to El Salvador, have been consistent fodder for the president’s arguments for stricter immigration policies and an end to “chain migration” — a term used primarily by anti-immigration groups that refers to the process of immigrants following family members into the country.
At Thursday’s press conference, Mr. Velasquez challenged those arguments, saying that the detainees represented a “harmless civilian population,” not MS-13.
“This is not about flag waving. This is not about the current debates that proliferate throughout the country on this issue. This is about human beings and who we are as a nation, and how we treat every resident within the boundaries of this country,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) in a statement Wednesday said her office was in “direct contact” with ICE officials and local advocates in regard to those questioned and in some cases detained during Tuesday’s raid.
“My office is working to get as much information as possible and we encourage transparency from ICE officials as this process unfolds,” the statement read in part. “In this tense environment created by an Administration intent on dividing us, we want to make sure everything about this action is above board and that individuals are being treated with dignity and respect.”
Kaptur’s statement also said she shares the concerns of many Ohioans who are “upset and alarmed” by the incident.
“The tragic reality is agricultural workers are vulnerable and targets for those looking to exploit them. Congress must regularize the seasonal and migrant labor flow across the Americas and we must end modern-day indentured servitude that is all too commonplace.”
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