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Instead of arresting workers and scaring children, we need an immigration system that matches our values

By Lynne Tramonte • Jun 22, 2018 at 10:00 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following visiting viewpoint was submitted by Lynn Tramonte, who serves as director of America’s Voice Ohio.

Ohio, we need to have a conversation about work and family. In the past two weeks, hundreds of federal agents with guns have descended upon garden centers and meatpacking plants in our state to arrest humble workers in aggressive, military-style immigration raids.

Many of those arrested at Corso’s had worked there for years and even decades. Fresh Mark employees have been killed on the job. These are hard-working men and women doing difficult work so that we all can enjoy beautiful plants and delicious meat.

Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), said:

“Tearing hard-working men and women apart from their children, families, and communities is wrong. The people who do these incredibly difficult jobs have the right to due process, and to be treated with respect and fairness. Today’s actions will only drive this nation further apart, while also spreading unmistakable pain among neighbors, friends, coworkers, and loved ones.

“Our top priority is to provide whatever assistance and counsel we can to any of our impacted members and their families. The broken policies that led to these and other workplace raids must be addressed immediately. They are creating a climate of fear where workers across this country are too afraid to stand up for their rights, report wage theft, dangerous work conditions, and other workplace issues.

“In carrying out these raids, ICE spends a lot of time planning their attack, but no thought at all on what will happen to the children when mom or dad didn’t come home from work.”

Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union wrote:

“We are outraged by the actions of Donald Trump. 140 people couldn't go home to their families last night, and their children were left on their own to fend for themselves — that is unconscionable. Yesterday, Donald Trump sent in ICE agents to separate hard working immigrant families in an egregious show of force. Our union is a union of hard working people, which includes immigrants; and we stand with all immigrant workers, who are trying to support their families and better their lives. Our union will not stand for violence against immigrants; we will not stand for tearing families apart and we will not stand for the terrifying tactics of the Trump Administration. The RWDSU is committed to assisting workers affected by this ICE raid and will continue to fight against any and all heartless attacks on immigrant workers seeking to provide for their families.

“As we’ve seen with their treatment of kids at the border, the administration sees the children of immigrants as pawns to control the behavior of their parents, nothing more. After all, they can always go to ‘foster care, or whatever,’ as White House Chief of Staff John Kelly callously said.

“But we, Ohio, know better. Kids are kids, and taking a parent away from them is not a decision we should ever make lightly. In these raids, we are treating parents who work hard to support their families — to the benefit of us all — like they are a danger to society.”

In an op-ed in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, professor Steve Volk wrote:

“Those arrested at the Corso's Flower & Garden Centers and at Fresh Mark's facilities are men and women who break their backs daily to put food not only on their families' tables but on our tables as well. And if you don't believe it, just ask many farmers, slaughterhouse owners, or sea food suppliers. Who but immigrants are harvesting the lettuce, slaughtering the pigs, or picking the crabs that we as consumers come to enjoy at a price we can afford? Look at the mulch in your garden, the azaleas that line your driveway. Who do you think put in the work so that you can enjoy a pleasant summer afternoon in your backyard?

“...When you look at the photographs of those arrested at Corso's and Fresh Mark's, you might allow yourself to see them as your neighbors and your co-workers — since that is what they have been for years, if not decades — rather than as violent criminals who deserve to be separated from their children and uprooted from their communities. And then you might pause and ask: In whose name is this being done and why?

Volk’s final point is a crucial one.

“Last night in Salem, Massillon and Canton, and two weeks ago in Sandusky and Norwalk, hundreds of our Ohio neighbors and their families had their lives shattered because they went to work.

“Instead of doing that, Congress and the administration should create an immigration system that matches our American values: work, family, decency.”

Pastor Dustin White of Canton said this:

“As I watched first hand the heinous ICE raid of the Fresh Mark plants last night, I was appalled. The tactic from ICE was inhumane and was used to incite confusion, panic, and fear. This fear is the same fear that erodes our compassion as a people and is a forfeiture of our very humanity. We can no longer as a people exploit the suffering of the vulnerable to prop up our own privilege and affluence.”

Lynn Tramonte is director of America’s Voice Ohio.

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