The Toledo Democrat and several aides visited the jail near Battle Creek, Michigan where roughly 30 of the female prisoners from Mexico, Guatemala, Dominican Republic and El Salvador are being held. Kaptur said she believes an indictment revealing the criminal charges against them will be unveiled when the Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has completed its investigation.
She said the jail is clean and well-managed, and the women are receiving adequate legal counsel and medical treatment. One detainee was already sent back to Mexico because she had previous legal violations, Kaptur said.
The women told her their jobs had been to prepare plants from Corso's Flower and Garden Center for shipment by removing their dead leaves and making them look nice. She said one of the detained women asked Kaptur to arrange for her child, who is a U.S. citizen, to get a passport so the child can accompany her if she's deported.
Kaptur said about a third of the women told her they paid labor traffickers to get to Ohio as part of what Kaptur called a "the terrible underbelly of labor" that they are forced to work under in North America.
Kaptur said Ohio agricultural interests have told her that they need around 20,000 workers from abroad each year to handle jobs that Americans don't want. She said she's arranging for the women to speak with farm labor organizer Baldemar Velasquez to discuss "creating a farm labor system on the continent that doesn't discriminate against anyone" or take away American jobs.
A staffer for Kapur, Theresa Morris, told reporters that ICE will probably deport any of the workers who came to the United States illegally because of the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy for illegal immigrants.
"The sad part is that there are women and men who have U.S. citizen children who know nothing other than living in the United States," said Morris. "If the parents go back, what happens to the children? Do they stay here and enter into a foster situation that is already burdened by the opioid epidemic and other issues? These are questions we have to answer."
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