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Outrage at Mass Immigration Raid in Ohio


Updated: June 14, 2018

Across the state, Ohioans are outraged at the military-style immigration raid carried out by federal immigration agents at Corso’s Flower and Garden Center in northern Ohio.  Following are quotes from key leaders denouncing the raid and expressing concern for the futures of affected workers, children, families, as well as our values as a country.

Federal Elected Officials

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D)

Tearing families apart will not fix our broken immigration system.  It will mean more problems for all of us. There is no good reason, ever, to separate children from their parents.  I don’t want to be the kind of country where federal agents split families up and send kids who knows where without being able to account for them.

U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH/9)

After years of divisive GOP rhetoric and inaction on real immigration reform, families in Ohio are now being torn apart.  The House GOP needs to get out of the way so we can help people and bring stability to the chaotic, inhumane system that exploits workers.

U.S. Representative Tim Ryan (D-OH/13)

Reports suggest the raid was carried out in an unnecessarily aggressive and disruptive manner that subsequently traumatized an entire community.  I write today to seek assurances that none of the detained individuals will be deported without full due process, including access to an attorney, in immigration court. These detained workers, irrespective of where they have come from, what their names are, or what language they speak, deserve a fair and open process. There should be no exceptions.

Furthermore, the people being detained are fathers, mothers, sons and daughters. It is unconscionable to simply rip these people away from their children and families who may depend on them for survival. They have adapted to American culture and have contributed to the betterment of our country and economy in a variety of ways.

State and Local Elected Officials

Stephanie Howse, Ohio State Representative, House District 11

Ohio, is one of the least culturally and racially diverse states in our country. Creating fear and tearing families apart will only keep people away from our state and hinder our ability to grow.

In the land of immigrants, willfully and forced, the United States has to find a respectable and dignified pathway to welcome our global brothers and sisters.

Angel Arroyo, Jr., Councilman, Lorain Ward 6

There are families who are left picking up the pieces of what took place in Sandusky.  These families’ primary care givers have been taken without any word or understanding as to where their loved ones have been taken.  

The greenhouse was raided with an army.  The officers came in with guns and air support.  You would think they were arresting some notorious gang bangers, drug dealers or rapists. The reality is they went in after hardworking, honest people who have families to provide for. These people were working hard doing the jobs no one else wanted to do. They deserve better.

Statement from Lucas County Commissioners

This surprise blitz by government agents on the agricultural businesses in Sandusky and Castalia to arrest workers is an unjust and deplorable action that has created the avoidable separation of families, including many with young children.

This large scale workplace immigration raid has left children stranded without their parents and disrupted the local communities of Erie County. The effects are going to be felt for years to come. Children are wondering if they will ever see their loved ones again.

These are people who are trying to work in this county and pose no threat to American security.

Pete Gerken, Commissioner, Lucas County

What happened in Erie County flies in the face of everything we’ve stood for in northwest Ohio.

Law Enforcement

Cel Rivera, Chief of Police, Lorain

From a law enforcement standpoint, it did not have to be done.  These people were not threatening anyone’s national security. It was nothing more than political theater.  The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement chose to go after easy pickings. They chose to hurt people who were not causing harm to anybody else.

It’s more reminiscent of a different time in a different continent.  That should give us pause.

Faith Leaders

Bishop of Toledo, Daniel E. Thomas

Respecting the role of government and law enforcement, we recognize our current immigration policies are broken and are actively contributing to the suffering and separation of vulnerable families, as evidenced in the most recent large-scale immigration action at Flower and Garden Centers in Sandusky, Ohio.  No matter our political persuasion, when families are broken apart, as in this raid, we should all recognize that the common good is not served.

Bishop of Cleveland, Nelson Perez

Acknowledging the role of our government in enforcing current immigration law, I feel a great sadness for the families whose lives have been disrupted following the large-scale immigration action on June 5 at Corso’s Flower and Garden Center in Erie County in north central Ohio. I offer my prayers, and ask the prayers of all people of good will, that the families affected will not be separated in the days and weeks to follow….

This latest event in Erie County again makes clear that our current immigration system contributes to the human suffering of migrants and the separation of families. The bishops of the Catholic Church have a duty to point out the moral consequences of a broken system. The Church is advocating for comprehensive and compassionate reform of our immigration system so that persons are able to obtain legal status in our country and enter the United States legally to work and support their families.  Since this is a responsibility of our Congress, I would encourage you to speak with your legislators advocating for reform of our present system. We do this remembering the words of Jesus as he calls upon us to “welcome the stranger,” for “what you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me.” (Mt: 25-35, 40)

Sister Cathy McConnell, Sacred Heart Chapel, Lorain

These children do not know where their parents are.  That’s trauma.

Cantor Jack Chomsky, Congregation Tifereth Israel, Columbus

I raise my voice along with many clergy of different faiths and denominations to speak out strongly against the recent raids by ICE in Sandusky, Ohio. What a complete violation of our communal and religious values. Our country needs reasonable immigration policy reform, something Congress has failed to do for a generation. Victimizing hard-working people in our communities, no matter their immigration status, tears apart the social fabric of our society and is a terrible waste of public resources.

Imam Horsed Noah, Somali Islamic Centers of Ohio, Columbus

As an Imam and a parent, I believe rounding up and deporting our neighbors, students, coworkers, friends, and family is a great injustice. Although people can be given labels such as ‘alien,’ ‘undocumented,’ and ‘illegal,’ people of faith know that immigrants — regardless of their legal status — are individuals deeply loved by God and created in God’s Divine image. Let’s love and not deport.

Sister Carren Herring, RSM, Sisters of Mercy, Cincinnati

As a Sister of Mercy dedicated to serving God’s people, especially those on the margins, I speak out for the dignity of our brothers and sisters arrested in the raids. I ask that we devote our energy and resources to welcoming and valuing our immigrant neighbors.

Rev. David Long-Higgins, David’s United Church of Christ, Canal Winchester

As a pastor in the Christian tradition, I believe the values of protecting and supporting children, working hard to provide for your family, and serving your community are key expressions of the way of Jesus. ICE’s aggressive, cruel raids and detentions directly contradict these values. As a result of yesterday’s actions, hundreds of children are left endangered and traumatized. Communities that have relied on the labor of these workers will be diminished. A more humane and just system must be born so that all people may live a life free of fear where they can live in dignity.

Rev. Dan Clark, Ohio Director, Faith in Public Life

Providing for our families and loved ones is what gets us out of bed in the morning. That sense of love, responsibility and purpose is central to who we are. But 114 men and women who went to work in Sandusky Tuesday morning so they could put food on the table never made it home. ICE agents raided their workplace, rounded them up, and snatched them away. Infants and toddlers stranded with babysitters are crying out. Children are trembling and panicking. Families are rushing to churches, desperate to figure out what to do. Pastors, neighbors and immigration advocates are scrambling to help. Is this the kind of nation we want to be? A place where ICE agents make children orphans and destroy entire communities so politicians can brag like they’re tough? That’s not just cruel, it’s cowardly.  Every passing day brings new trauma to children who want to be back in their mother’s and father’s arms. It doesn’t have to be this way. We must each do everything we can for these shattered families. This is a time for prayer, and a time for action. Call Sen. Portman now, tell him to do everything in his power to make the Trump administration free these workers and put families back together right now. Then call him again tomorrow. We have to be better than this.

Jason Miller, Director of Campaigns and Development, Franciscan Action Network

As a native Northwest Ohioan and a person of faith, I’m horrified by what happened at Corsco’s. As a nation of immigrants, we are called to be empathetic and compassionate to all people who are in our country. We should not be tearing apart families and leaving children without their parents. Many people coming from Mexico and Central America are seeking asylum after having faced violence in their home country. Reports indicate that ICE agents tried to lure workers with donuts. This is sickening, cruel, and heartless.  We should be better than that as a nation. Unfortunately right now we are not. And for that we will be judged.

Labor and Workers’ Rights Organizations

Baldemar Velasquez, President, Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC)

This is about human beings and who we are as a nation.

Yanela Sims, Ohio State Director/VP, SEIU Local 1

I emigrated to the United States when I was eight years old. My parents told me that our family came to this country for a better life. As a child, I didn’t understand what they meant.  As I saw it, everything was just fine. It wasn’t until I became an adult, and had a child of my own that I was able to relate to my parents. Although I had a great life growing up, I too want better for my child than what I had.

In Ohio and across the country, increased ICE raids send a clear message that the United States is no longer a place where anyone can build a better life and that instead, this opportunity is reserved for a select few. These attacks inform us that working people can be disregarded while corporations are praised, and that respect and dignity does not apply to all.  

Random raids won’t make a perceived “problem” go away or make the country safer, or magically make more jobs appear.  Random raids separate families, destroy lives, condone hate, and show us all that only some citizens of our society are regarded as human beings who deserve the better life that we all want for ourselves and our families.

Deb Kline, Director, Cleveland Jobs with Justice and President, OPEIU Local 1794

The militarized raids in Erie County on Tuesday are not only heartbreaking and appalling for the workers and their families but also another fine example of this administration continuing to talk out of both sides of their mouths.  One of the news reports stated that the raid was “part of a crackdown on employers,” yet Corso’s was back up and running just three hours after the raids while their 114 employees sat in prison. Corso’s continued selling plants while the children of their employees cried out for their missing parents.  If the government is truly cracking down on employers then why weren’t the Corsos the ones led away in zip ties instead of their employees.

The lack of compassion shown towards the children of these workers, who were left on their own after the raids, is startling but now no longer surprising.  We see it at the border, where the children are being ripped from their mothers’ arms, just as we saw it in Erie County on Tuesday. Lady Liberty is weeping in the harbor; her light to freedom and liberty is no longer burning.

Linda Lynch, OPEIU Local 1794

I write in regard to the recent raids at the Corso’s Flower and Garden Centers in Sandusky and Castalia, Ohio.

It is REPREHENSIBLE that in our “free” country, workers of Hispanic descent had machine guns pointed in their faces, were zip-tied and arrested while on their jobs. In one case, a Hispanic American CITIZEN was caught up in the raid and was released only after Senator Sherrod Brown’s office intervened and evidence of citizenship was provided. I’m sure there were other CITIZENS arrested simply for going to work that day, as well.

If undocumented immigration is REALLY such a problem in America, why then aren’t the businesses who employ them punished more severely? After all, if not for the jobs they are offering, the undocumented immigrants wouldn’t be here working, would they? Businesses that break the law by exploiting undocumented immigrants should be shuttered PERMANENTLY and the owners imprisoned. It is the burden of the EMPLOYER to make sure people they are employing are legal to work in this country. Punish the greedy employers, and then provide a feasible and affordable pathway to citizenship for the workers with clean records that have been exploited. Why does our government continue to demonize and punish immigrants who come to America in search of a better life, just as our ancestors did?

Unions and union workers must stand against these acts of barbarity committed on human beings by our government and we must support leadership that rebukes these inhumane actions instead of encouraging them.

Jobs with Justice, National

On Tuesday, June 6, 2018, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Border Patrol raided two Corso’s Flower & Garden Center locations in Ohio. Despite DHS officials reporting that the raid was conducted to investigate the employer, agents detained more than 100 employees in a militarized operation, and Corso’s re-opened for business a few hours later.

At Jobs With Justice, we fight for the rights of undocumented Americans. This important group lives in our communities and contributes to our economy. We oppose unscrupulous employers unfairly profiting from a broken immigration system that persists in pushing these vulnerable people and their families even deeper into the shadows.

This raid, among others, instills widespread fear that has long-term consequences. The ripple effects are numerous, and include workers feeling scared to report wage theft, dangerous work conditions, and other abuses. All told, this makes all working people less safe. Our nation’s leaders must safeguard civil, labor, and human rights for all people working in this country – and stop threatening these democratic principles.

Harry Williamson, Executive Secretary, Lorain County AFL-CIO

The inhumane raids at both Corso’s Nursery and their Flower and Garden Center on June 5th were both egregious and despicable.  114 undocumented workers were arrested and sent off to prisons in three different locations in Michigan and Ohio, but just three hours later both Corso’s locations were back open for business as if nothing had happened earlier in the day.   We see this repeatedly across the country when ICE raids businesses; the owners are inconvenienced by losing a couple of hours of business while families are ripped apart and destroyed.

The raids in Erie County will not only have a devastating effect on the families of the workers, but they will also have a negative impact on the local economy in the communities where these workers were living and raising their families.  Doesn’t seem like a very efficient use of the tax dollars it took to involve 200 ICE and Border Patrol Agents in these raids.

The Lorain County AFL-CIO stands with these workers and their families and hopes that others in the Labor community will join us.

Children’s Health and Welfare Experts

National Association of Social Workers Ohio

NASW Ohio condemns the ICE raids that occurred this week in Sandusky, Ohio. These raids targeted gardening and landscaping workers; leaving over 100 families displaced, detained, and separated from each other and their communities. We are working with a coalition of organizations to provide support and resource linkage to the families impacted.

Victor Leandry, Executive Director, El Centro

The effects of this raid will be felt for years to come.  The taxpayers will now have to support these children as they go through the system.  This helps nobody and solves no problems. We need to rally together and show government officials what we think. We can not allow this sort of thing to continue.

Organizational Leaders

Veronica Dahlberg, Executive Director, HOLA Ohio

[It’s] heartbreaking to see how the families had fled, leaving behind vehicles and all of their possessions.  Their top priority was to protect their families.

Bennett Guess, Executive Director, ACLU of Ohio

It was abhorrent the way they were detained, especially without regard for the children. Children were left at daycare centers. These are extremely hard working, low-wage workers who are highly exploited. What happened is a travesty of justice. What we are witnessing is the systematic dismantling of due process by every administration, Democratic and Republican alike.  How you treat your non-citizens is how you will treat your citizens.

Chrissy Stonebraker-Martinez, Co-Director, InterReligious Task Force on Central America & Colombia

The dangers that propel children, teens, women, and others from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mexico and elsewhere to seek refuge in the United States have not ended. The number of people arrested — simply for being immigrants — in the US interior rather than at the border (meaning they were not new arrivals) increased by more than 40 percent over last year. Concurrently, immigration arrests of people with no criminal convictions nearly tripled. Those in uniform “secure” walls for others who wield inequitable power as pawns of a broken system. It can be unbearable to recognize the humanity of another, especially if the other person is visibly suffering, but we must. How can we turn away from families and children? How could we be so cruel, to abandon people who are only trying to care for themselves and their families?

Laura Moese, LULAC Ohio State Director

LULAC opposes the division of families. This raid targeted workers. Some of them are U.S. citizens. Constant targeting of Latinos is unacceptable. It disrupts the community and creates emotional stress among families.

Opinion Leaders

Connie Schultz

This latest ICE carnival was brought to you by the Donald Trump road show. It’s not really about stolen American jobs or evil immigrants, neither of which is a threat here. It’s about a reality show president’s desperate attempt to keep his base worked into the frenzy of fear and rage he needs to feel special.

The people you haven’t seen in this latest farce are the children who were left behind, in day care or with baby sitters, separated from their parents.

….This is what we do now in America. Our government singles out brown and black children and traumatizes them, as policy. We rip their parents away from them and claim we’re protecting jobs that Americans don’t even want.

We don’t even pretend this isn’t what’s happening.

We just say this is how it’s going to be.

Concerned Ohioans

Angelina Chavez, Norwalk Resident

We come here for a better life. We are not killers, we are not traffickers.  We just come here for a better life.

Jerome, a Corso’s worker who was not arrested

These are good, hardworking people. They are my friends. I knew these people. I go over to their houses and we have parties together. You can’t fault them for trying to better their lives, for coming here. People are starving where they come from. I’d risk my life to come here too.

Another Corso’s worker who was not arrested

It was chaos. It was horrible what happened because people have children and they didn’t know what to do with them. These are hardworking people and it’s not fair. The women were all crying because they have kids too. I’ve known them for years, they’re hardworking and they’re just trying to better their lives.

Debbie Leffler, Norwalk resident

[Speaking of the children of those arrested in the Corso’s raids] Those of you who still want to think of their mothers and fathers as “illegal aliens,” think again. Those of you who believe you are different and deserve different things because your skin is lighter or your native language is English, think again, because we are bigger than that. There are no “illegal people” and “legal people” — we are all people.

It’s about justice, not politics. And justice is not telling people there is a company meeting with doughnuts and then rounding them up with guns and dogs and tying their hands.

Those of you who voted for Trump, did you vote for that? Do you really think those people working at Corso’s for long hours and going home to hot trailers are taking anything away from you? Or are they enriching our culture, our schools, with their presence?

Gina Perez, Oberlin College Professor of Comparative American Studies

While the sudden detention of 114 people is absolutely heartbreaking, what is infuriating is knowing that all of this pain and mean-spiritedness could be mitigated with comprehensive immigration reform. President Reagan recognized this fact, which is why he supported the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, the last time we had anything close to meaningful immigration reform. What was possible and necessary then, including providing legal status to nearly 3 million undocumented residents, seems nearly impossible today.

And while some elected leaders have demonstrated the moral courage to push for immigration reform that would include a path to citizenship for some who meet specific criteria (such as DACA recipients or “Dreamers”), these efforts have been continually thwarted and ridiculed by powerful legislators and President Trump to our nation’s detriment. This refusal to work in a bipartisan way to mend our broken immigration system stands in stark contrast to what polls consistently show: That the vast majority of Americans want immigration reform, with 70 percent supporting continued administrative relief for Dreamers.