When Harry Pangemanan heard about the immigration raids on meat packing plants in Mississippi last week, it brought back memories of another raid, 13 years ago. Of hours spent hiding under a bed with his pregnant wife and toddler daughter, while Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents banged on doors, climbed through windows and took away three dozen of his neighbors in Avenel, N.J., in windowless vans.
The Mississippi raids may have been one of the most sweeping in ICE history, with 680 workers taken from seven plants around the state. But they were not the first. The Mississippi cities of Bay Springs, Canton, Morton and Sebastopol joined a long list of places — Postville, Mount Pleasant and Marshalltown, Iowa; Morristown, Tenn.; Hyrum, Utah; Greeley, Colo.; Grand Island, Neb., and Cactus, Texas — that are still dealing with the aftereffects of the sudden disappearance of workers, customers, taxpayers and parents.
“I watched the news and thought ‘it is happening again’,” says Pangemanan, who fled persecution in Indonesia to make a life in the U.S. He was not caught by ICE that morning in 2006, but his life was upended by the aftermath of the raid nonetheless. “I thought about the people. The children. The lessons they will now learn.”
The biggest ICE raid in history was in December 2006, when the Bush administration sent 1,000 ICE police, backed by local squads in riot gear, to six meatpacking plants in the Midwest and West owned by Swift & Co. Up to 20,000 workers were detained and nearly 1,300 were arrested on immigration charges. Families were torn apart, with fathers deported and American-born children left behind. The business, which struggled to find replacement workers even after raising wages to attract documented employees, was sold to a Brazilian company the following year. READ MORE