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Lamar County immigration raid had political motives, activists say


Aug 30, 2018

DALLAS - Activists say politics played a part in more than 150 people being detained during an immigration raid earlier this week in Lamar County.

The federal government says it's going after the company for hiring illegal immigrants. But families are being directly affected by the detainments.

Members of the League of United Latin American Citizens were outside the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Office in Dallas on Thursday to protest the recent raid. They say the targeted raids are creating a crisis that has entire families living in fear.

“We were very scared since nobody knew what was happening,” said one woman who didn’t want her face shown. “Nobody imagined this would happen. Working at the plant so long, we've never seen anything like that."

The woman was arrested during Tuesday's raid and later released because she's the primary caretaker for her children. She’s afraid to show her face because she says her husband was arrested and hasn’t been heard from since.

"To know that we know nothing about him, where he is, where they've taken him. We don't even have the financial means to pay his bond,” the woman said.

Eric Cedillo is one of dozens of immigration lawyers volunteering to represent the families and help them navigate the legal system.

“Incredibly afraid of what happens next,” he said. “Are they going to come to our homes? Are they going to come knocking on our doors? So it's a very real fear."

Cedillo says many immigrant parents are afraid to send their kids to school. Nearby Paris ISD says it is providing counselors for students and parents to calm their fears.

This is the second time since 2014 that Load Trail has been raided by federal agents. Gene Besen is the attorney representing the Lamar County company. He would not say if they knowingly hired illegal immigrants.

“I don’t think anyone is in a position to credibly able to speak to that at this point,” he said. “The execution of a search warrant is the beginnings of an investigation. The government is beginning theirs, and we’re beginning ours.”

Besen did say the company uses e-Verify, a system for checking a job applicant's legal status. He also said the owners are cooperating with the Department of Justice and have set up a fund to assist the arrested workers.

“The idea that Load Trail is exploiting worker or giving American jobs away to undocumented workers is both false,” the attorney said.

Homeland security says the company itself is the target of the criminal investigation. But the national president of LULAC sees the biggest immigration raid in ten years as something else.

“It's amazing that in 2018 we see these type of terror raids by ICE agents,” said LULAC President Domingo Garcia.

Garcia says his organization is protesting in Dallas and San Antonio to send a message to the White House during this election year.

"It's unfortunate that this administration is using families as political pawns to rev up their vote. This is all this is about,” he said. “These are political piñatas that they're bashing and crashing against in order to get votes out in November and maintain this presidency."

With signs in hand, a small group of protestors gathered outside the ICE Office in Dallas during the height of rush hour on Thursday.

“A demographic that shows up to work in the morning is probably the least threatening demographic I can think of,” said protestor Habi Jawad.

“My dad was deported back in 2004,” said protestor Jessica Ramirez. “So I know what family separation can do.”

“The fact that we’re fighting some of these battles today were people are being basically profiled by their color and background is very disheartening,” Garcia said. “But we’re here to stand up and meet that challenge and defend them.”

The manufacturing plant is back open. They are reportedly looking to hire more workers to replace the ones that were arrested.