Anniversary: ¿Has Anything Changed?
By La Prensa Staff
June 5, 2019 marks the one-year anniversary of the largest
immigration-related raid in northern Ohio in recent
memory. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents
detained nearly 120 workers at Corso's Flower and Garden
Center near Sandusky, Ohio during a chaotic pre-dawn
The scene was described as “utter chaos” and threw the lives of
dozens of families into weeks of uncertainty. Just 13 of the
detainees were released within a couple of weeks, while ICE
shipped more than 100 others to holding facilities at least a
two hours' drive from their loved ones. Many of the families
affected live in the Willard and Norwalk, Ohio areas,
while their parents were detained at lock-ups in Michigan and
the Youngstown, Ohio area.
The situation grew grim enough that HOLA Ohio opened a
Norwalk, Ohio office last September, staffed by a bilingual
caseworker to help immigrant families sort out the confusing
mess the raid created. The social justice nonprofit committed to
keeping the office open through August because of the sheer
number of people impacted between the Corso's raid and another
that followed two weeks later at a meatpacking plant in Salem,
Ohio, where another 146 Latinos were detained by ICE agents.
HOLA Ohio has continued to
work as recently as late April to help reunite parents and their
kids, battling their detention and deportation cases. One dad
was detained for weeks "when his family needed him most,"
according to one HOLA Facebook post.
"His son, Brandon, 6, is battling leukemia. Thanks to our bond
fund and legal defense fund, we were able to help bond out dad
and reunite him with his wife and children," wrote Victoria
Dahlberg, HOLA director. "It is incomprehensible that these
sweeps and hard line “zero tolerance” policies are being done to
our immigrant community, tearing apart their families."
But during National Police Week last month, HOLA Ohio
clarified its position supporting the law enforcement community,
despite a growing need for its services in the immigration
“During this time of anti-immigrant rhetoric and the policies
that arise from them, our work advocating for Latinos,
immigrants and their families is often judged-- incorrectly-- to
mean we are against law enforcement,” wrote Ms. Dahlberg. “While
we take issue with certain policies, our gratitude, admiration
and respect for law enforcement is unwavering.”
The ICE raid at the Erie County landscaping and garden operation
was prompted by the arrest in October 2017 of Martha
Buendia-Chavarria a Mexico native who received a
four-and-a-half-year federal prison sentence after pleading
guilty to four federal charges stemming from the creation and
sale of fraudulent IDs and documents to people suspected of
being in the country illegally, as well as using someone else’s
ID to live in the U.S. Federal authorities allege that Ms.
Buendia-Chavarria and her associates manufactured upwards of
1,000 fake identities.
Corso's has maintained since the raid the company was unaware
any of its employees were using fake documents to gain
employment. Media reports indicate at least a dozen-and-a-half
Corso's workers detained in the raid were later indicted on
immigration-related charges. Others signed papers to voluntarily
return to their native Mexico.
Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE)
led the charge to form a legal defense team for the Corso's
employees caught up in the raid, both to ensure their rights
were maintained, as well as to help them understand the
complicated federal immigration system and deportation process.
and HOLA Ohio each set up bond and legal funds,
soliciting donations to pay the thousands of dollars in each
case to get immigrants released to reunite with their families.
In most cases, volunteers drove for hours round-trip to pick up
the detainees to return them home.
But getting to stay in the U.S. has not been guaranteed for any
of them. Lawyers have spent countless hours helping them
assemble documents and file a defense to remain in this country.
Those hearings have led to a long, drawn-out process after weeks
in detention for many parents. The loneliness of captivity,
combined with the stress of whether families would get to stay
intact has led to depression and other mental health issues for
While media attention surrounding the raid and its aftermath has
virtually disappeared, the Trump administration has seemingly
ramped up its ‘zero tolerance’ policy and the number of
workplace raids over the past year. According to a Homeland
Security report released last December, ICE arrests at
workplaces grew by 640 percent year-over-year—increasing from
311 in 2017 to more than 2,300 a year later.
779 of those arrests were for criminal offenses, and 1,525 were
for immigration offenses.
More than ten percent of those arrests came from the two
northern Ohio raids staged just two weeks apart a year ago. In
the Corso's raid, some 200 ICE agents backed by helicopters
engaged garden center employees in a pre-dawn raid.
“Employers who use an illegal workforce as part of their
business model put businesses that do follow the law at a
competitive disadvantage,” Homeland Security Investigations
Executive Associate Director Derek N. Benner said in a
statement that accompanied the report's release. “These laws
help protect jobs for U.S. citizens and others who are lawfully
employed, reduce the incentive of illegal migration, eliminate
unfair competitive advantages for companies that hire an illegal
workforce, and ultimately help strengthen public safety and
The ramp-up in ICE enforcement activity has seemingly continued
unabated, despite the raids being heavily criticized publicly
for disrupting and separating families. Published reports in
North Carolina indicate a series of what a group of mayors
called “retaliatory raids” were conducted in that state’s three
most populous counties after those counties elected new sheriffs
who either rescinded cooperation agreements with ICE or publicly
stated they’d require proper court documentation to hold an
More than 200
people were detained across North Carolina in one week’s time in
early February. The head of the Atlanta ICE office
said the increase in immigration
enforcement across the state is “the new normal” and admitted
the increased raids were “a product of some of the policies that
have been enacted within the state.”
That led to further accusations that ICE agents were posing as
day laborers or van drivers to draw out pools of undocumented
immigrant workers for round-ups. Advocates contend ICE may be
new tactics to detain and
deport migrants to county the increased use of social media by
immigrant communities o alert others of ICE operations,
sightings, and checkpoints in their area.
Many of the raids have occurred in smaller towns, away from
North Carolina’s more populous cities. That may cause some worry
among migrant farm workers who begin the harvesting year in the
state picking tobacco and other crops. Many of them are members
of the Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC).
A similar large-scale increase in ICE enforcement activity has
been reported across Texas.
also reports "a new scenario" has developed in the last few
asylum-seekers from the southern border are being transported to
and detained in the same Youngstown prison that held the
male detainees from the Corso's raid. According to the nonprofit
group, one young man had been detained for six months, unable to
post a $7,000 bond.
There are serious humanitarian and medical concerns. He has an
amputated foot and a bad prosthetic limb," wrote Ms. Dahlberg in
a Facebook post. "There is no doubt he will be an asset to
northeast Ohio. He was an accountant in his home country of
Honduras and has been approved for release. The bond is the only
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