Workers sue government over tactics used during raid


The federal agents who raided a meatpacking plant last December in Worthington allegedly shouted racial slurs at Hispanic workers and ordered women to disrobe, all while non-Hispanic workers moved around the facility unchecked, according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of 10 Hispanic workers against the federal government.

Centro Legal, a St. Paul-based immigration services agency, filed the suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.

The plaintiffs were working for Swift & Co. when Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents raided the southern Minnesota plant and five others across the country and detained more than 1,200 undocumented immigrants.

“ICE agents insulted, abused, and humiliated the plaintiffs on account of their race,” the suit claims.

Almost all of the detainees in the Dec. 12 raid were Hispanic immigrants. The plaintiffs, who are also of Hispanic descent, are either U.S. citizens, permanent residents or holders of Temporary Protected Status, according to the suit.

“The gist of this lawsuit is that my clients’ basic constitutional rights have been violated,” said Gloria Contreras-Edin, Centro Legal’s executive director. “While the status of other workers who didn’t look like Latinos were not verified, my clients were searched illegally. That’s a violation of the equal protection under the law.”

Contreras-Edin said immigration agents used racial epithets and called her clients “coyotes” or smugglers.

ICE spokesman Tim Counts recently told Minnesota Monitor: “All ICE actions at Swift were conducted legally and in accordance with our guidelines. Each detained person received due process.”

Centro Legal is also suing ICE on behalf of Willmar residents who claim that federal agents broke into their houses during an April raid without warrants. Counts also denied that claim and said the agency will fight accusations in court.

The suit comes amid increased enforcement by ICE and other Homeland Security agencies. Secretary Michael Chertoff recently said that his department will accelerate immigration enforcement because Congress failed to address the problem legislatively.