Indian Signal Workers Detained and Facing Charges

Posted by admin on Nov 23rd, 2008

ICE RAIDS: THE NEW FRONTIER- IMMIGRATION RAID IN FARGO, NORTH DAKOTA TARGETS ACTIVISTS

Dear friends and allies,

Earlier this year, you supported the Indian guestworkers who risked everything in a heroic fight against human trafficking after Signal International (Signal) and its labor recruiters brought them to the Gulf Coast under false pretenses in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  Despite their valiant efforts and your support, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has refused to grant them protections as victims of trafficking—including continued presence—and has not yet filed charges against any of the traffickers.

Now in a horrific example of what happens when victims are not protected, a group of the workers have been targeted in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid and face federal prosecution as a direct
result of their public campaign.  We are asking for your support as these workers continue their fight for basic protections and for the DOJ and ICE to prosecute human traffickers and not their victims.  This workplace raid on trafficking victims further highlights this outgoing Administration’s misguided priorities.  If change is coming under the Obama Administration, we must make sure these workers are included in it.

When defense subcontractor Signal trafficked them to labor camps in the Gulf Coast and held them in forced labor, these workers fought back.  They escaped indentured servitude, triggering a major DOJ investigation into criminal trafficking. They walked from New Orleans to Washington, DC in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi, to show Congress the brutal realities of the US guestworker program.  And they launched a 29 day-long hunger strike, to pressure the DOJ to prosecute Signal on charges of criminal trafficking.

As a result of speaking out publically, a group of these men were targeted in an ICE raid. On October 28, 2008 – days before the presidential election – ICE arrested over 20 of these workers in a terrifying immigration raid in Fargo, North Dakota.  In line with their recent strategy, ICE charged them with federal crimes.   In a press conference after the raid, an immigration official charged the workers with stealing American jobs.  Now in federal custody, these courageous men face the threat of years in prison.

These survivors of trafficking came forward voluntarily to report Signal to the DOJ.  Six months later, the DOJ is now prosecuting the trafficking victims, while no charges have been brought against the traffickers.

At every step, ICE has aggressively countered the workers’ organizing. When Signal learned the workers were holding meetings, the company’s armed guards imprisoned them, and attempted to deport them.  Signal stated it retaliated aggressively after consulting with ICE.  When workers visited a site honoring martyrs of the civil rights movement in Montgomery, Alabama on their way to Washington, DC, ICE terrorized them with a covert surveillance operation.  In addition, ICE has offered special protections for workers hand-picked by Signal to testify on behalf of the company while denying those same protections to worker testifying against the company. ICE has now gone a step further by targeting and detaining the workers who have come forward to report Signal to federal authorities.

The workers and their supporters are demanding:

The Department of Justice must release the workers immediately, and drop all charges.

The Department of Justice must prosecute Signal International on charges of criminal trafficking and grant “continued presence” in the US to   all 250 trafficked workers – the basic minimum protection offered by law to victims of trafficking.

ICE must release its hold on the detained workers and cease any further investigations of any of these guestworkers, and focus instead on   investigating Signal and its agents.

*ACT NOW:  The workers need your support!*  You can help by:

*Write to the workers in detention to show your support*.  In order to stay strong, the workers need to know they have the community’s support and people are looking out for their well being.  Remember that all letters will be read by jail personnel first.  The letter itself should be addressed to the Indian Worker Congress.  The envelopes should be addressed to:  Cass County Jail, Christopher Glory, 450 34th St, Fargo,
ND 58103.

– *Donate funds so that detained workers can stay in touch with their families* during this difficult time.  Jail calling cards cost $.80 a minute to India.  Donations can be made through the website for the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice:
http://www.neworleansworkerjustice.org/

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