Sep 23, 2017
Michigan farmworkers detained, moved out-of-state

A non-profit that offers legal services to seasonal workers is concerned about the treatment of migrant blueberry pickers who were taken into custody Sept. 19 near New Era, Michigan.

According to a report from WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, armed officers in unmarked vehicles surrounded the Bakery Agricultural Labor Camp on 90th Street.

State records show the labor camp is owned by Lakeside Pic N Pac 2 on West Olive Road in Holland.

Neighbor Sandra VanBlargen watched from her home as agents rushed onto the camp’s property.

“And got out fast and immediately put a few people in handcuffs,” VanBlargen said.

According to the WZZM report,

“A seasonal worker at the camp Thursday said he fears officers will return to the camp.

He believes nine men and  one woman were taken away in handcuffs. The workers were in Oceana County to pick blueberries. The man says the officers wouldn’t identify what agency they worked for, and didn’t have arrest warrants for those who were taken from the camp.

“They do not have to let ICE into their home,” says Hillary Scholten, an attorney with the nonprofit Michigan Immigrant Rights Center. “Unless ICE has a warrant with their name on it signed by a Federal judge they’re not allowed to enter their home.”

The Michigan Immigrant Rights Center believes the officers were with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Scholten is also concerned about the timing of what she calls a raid. It happens just as seasonal workers in Oceana County conclude the difficult work to harvest the state’s blueberry crop. 

“We are concerned about the broader message this sends to our immigrants here.” said Scholten.   

The M.I.R.C. believes the agents used a single arrest warrant to gain access to other workers.

“That individual was not at the camp,” said Scholten. “They ended up and taking into immigration custody 10-other individuals who they were not looking for.”

Lawyers for the M.I.R.C. spent Wednesday looking for the 9-men. Thursday their efforts paid off. The men were located at a detention center in Youngstown, Ohio.

M.I.R.C. lawyers are traveling to Ohio to see what charges, if any are filed in in federal court.  

A public affairs officer for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was not able to confirm the arrests.

The woman worker detained is being held in a Michigan jail.”

For more on the story, visit here.

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