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Latino Daily News

Saturday July 19, 2014

Coalition Slams Detention of 100 Immigrant Workers in Southern Florida

Coalition Slams Detention of 100 Immigrant Workers in Southern Florida

Photo: Fruit Dynamics raid

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

The Florida Immigrant Coalition described as “scandalous and cruel” the detention of more than 100 undocumented immigrants during a raid in the Gulf coast city of Naples.

Agents from the Florida Department of Financial Services raided the Fruit Dynamics packing plant on Wednesday, ostensibly as part of a probe into alleged insurance fraud.

More than 100 undocumented workers were taken into custody, accused of using invalid Social Security numbers.

“The so-called ‘insurance fraud bust’ at the Naples produce company was in fact a scandalous and cruel immigration raid,” the Florida Immigrant Coalition’s executive director, Maria Rodriguez, said in a statement.

The operation “punished the hardworking immigrants who sustain Florida’s thriving fruit industry with criminal charges and jail at the taxpayers’ expense,” she said. “It is unclear whether any of those arrested ever even filed a workman’s compensation claim, much less a fraudulent one.”

Some pregnant women were among the workers detained.

“It is no secret that many immigrant workers are forced to use invalid Social Security numbers, often with a wink and a nod from their employers, if they want to survive and feed their families. Employers knowingly rely on these workers for their own economic survival,” Rodriguez said.

The coalition, made up of more than 50 organizations, said the investigation leading to Wednesday’s raid began with the case of a Fruit Dynamics worker who was injured on the job and decided to see a doctor.

Noting that Florida’s chief financial officer, Jeff Atwater, touted the raid, the coalition urged him to drop the charges against the immigrants “and use Florida taxpayers’ resources on real threats to our fiscal well-being, not persecuting Florida’s humblest workers.”

“We also call on ICE - Immigration and Customs Enforcement - to ensure that no worker is deported out of this raid. Enforcing workplace rights, including workers’ compensation, should never lead to deportation,” the Florida Immigrant Coalition said.

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