Frustration mounts among the families of Hyrum raid detainees

Published December 21, 2006 1:19 am

Lack of information about what will happen is hardest on loved ones who are left in limbo
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If she's going to be sent back to Mexico, when will she be deported? Will she be able to bring anything with her? Will he and his children be able to hug her goodbye?

The answers to these questions are nowhere to be found for Jose - an undocumented worker whose wife was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents during a federal raid at the Swift & Co. meat processing plant in Hyrum last week. He knows his wife is in a Utah jail, waiting to be deported to Mexico. She doesn't want him to visit because he might get arrested, so he calls ICE for information.

Even though it has been 10 days since the detention of 154 undocumented workers in northern Utah, family members of those arrested have been frustrated by a lack of information about their loved ones.

"We don't want her in there. We just want the process to go fast," Jose said. "I don't know why she's still in there."

Jose's wife said she signed voluntary deportation papers to shorten her jail stay. He has no idea when she'll be transferred to Mexico; as far as he knows, she will not face criminal charges.

An investigation into identity theft was cited by ICE and Homeland Security officials as the impetus for the Dec. 12 raids at Swift plants in Hyrum; Greeley, Colo.; Grand Island, Neb.; Cactus, Texas; Marshalltown, Iowa; and Worthington, Minn.

Nationwide, approximately 1,300 workers - from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador - were detained. About 200 of them will face felony criminal charges.

In Utah, 15 of the workers are being prosecuted in federal court, and 22 in state court. The cases of another 57 workers are being reviewed for possible prosecution in state court. Many others, such as Jose's wife, will just be sent back to their home countries.

As for the community's concerns about why the federal agents came in during the holidays, ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said, "ICE is not in the business of looking at a calendar," adding that the agency has to investigate and enforce the law year-round.

"We're in charge to protect our homeland," said Pruneda, who is based in San Antonio. "We were working on something, we don't look at specific dates. . . . Based on intelligence . . . that's when we act upon it."

The Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City is trying to filter information to families whose relatives were picked up in the raid. There are 130 Mexicans being held, about 50 of them women, said Manuel Morod, assistant consul of protection. The consulate will help the families if they decide to move the children back to Mexico to be with relatives.


The ICE hot lines let relatives and friends check the status of the undocumented workers arrested in the Dec. 12 immigration raid.

* Call 866-341-3858 or 866-DHS-2ICE

Do you want to help?

Several community groups are collecting food, clothes, diapers, toys and money for rent, car payments and bills for the families affected by the Dec. 12 immigration raid in Hyrum.


Dropoff location: Multicultural Center of Cache Valley, 290 N. 400 East (at Whittier Center).

Call: Leo Bravo at 435-753-8486 or Father Clarence Sandoval at 435-245-3026.


Call: AnnaJane Arroyo at 801-644-6362.


Drop off location (after 4 p.m.): Centro Civico Mexicano community center, 155 S. 600 West.

Call: John Renteria at 323-3921 or Tomas Perez at 943-0996.


"12/12 Immigration Release Fund," Phone: 435-753-4080.


"Help for Families of Those Detained at EA Miller," Account No. 2016704031.

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