Last week, two workers at separate dairy farms were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
The arrests happened on Jan. 12 in Washington County, Wisconsin, at the farms where the undocumented immigrants worked. A third person was arrested at his home in Washington County, but it is unknown if they worked in the dairy industry.
ICE spokespeople say this was not part of a raid, it was related to enforcement of traffic infractions.
“ICE officers target specific individuals based on investigative leads,” an ICE statement said. “The three men were arrested based on recent contact with the criminal justice system, and they all have pending criminal charges.”
Voces de la Frontera, an immigrant and workers’ rights group based in Wisconsin, was notified of the arrests by the wives of the two workers following their detainment.
Supporters of Voces de la Frontera protested in front of ICE field office in Milwaukee the afternoon the arrests were made.
Christine Neumann-Ortiz, Voces de la Frontera Executive Director, believes these were targeted raids.
“ICE was trolling the court system for information on who to pick up,” Neumann-Ortiz said.
“It is critical to point out that the dairy industry is Wisconsin’s most important industry.”
Neumann-Ortiz went onto share that 80% of milk in Wisconsin comes from immigrant labor, she estimates a good portion could be undocumented. One in 10 Wisconsin jobs is related to the dairy industry.
The two arrested dairy workers included:
- Agustin Aguirre Villa, 28, has lived in the U.S. for 12 years, is the father of two children born in the U.S. and has been working as a dairy manager for the last nine years.
- Firo Jesus Gamboa Hernandez, 23, father of two U.S. citizen children with his wife has been working at the dairy for the last six years.
“Naturally they are scared for their future and the emotional trauma inflicted on their children,” Neumann-Ortiz said of the two arrested dairy workers.
Voces de la Frontera did not have any information on the third person who was arrested at home.
ICE will continue to detain the three people arrested in Wisconsin until they go before a federal immigration judge in immigration court.
Earlier in the week ICE made headlines when 21 illegal immigrants were arrested during a nationwide raid of nearly 100 7-Eleven convenience stores in 17 states.
After the arrests at 7-Eleven, Thomas D. Homan, ICE deputy director and senior official performing the duties of the director, said that ICE will enforce the law and business owners will be held accountable.
“Businesses that hire illegal workers are a pull factor for illegal immigration and we are working hard to remove this magnet. ICE will continue its efforts to protect jobs for American workers by eliminating unfair competitive advantages for companies that exploit illegal immigration,” Homan said.
Immigration policies including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) have been under scrutiny by the Trump administration.
In Wisconsin, state Senator Ron Johnson proposed legislation last year that would set aside visas for states to handle immigration for migrant labor.
“Let's allocate X number of visas to the states to have them manage it. They can determine what industries, what types of visas. These would be three year, temporary, they could be renewed. States can set wage rates so you don't depress wages in particular industries,” Johnson told WKOW.
Johnson would like to see the program backed by federal policy so it can be implemented on a state-by-state level.
As a farmer, there’s nothing you can do to control this situation, but you can protect yourself from fines and legal action related to an ICE raid. Click here to learn how to audit your form I-9s.
The press conference from Voces de la Frontera at the protest can be viewed below:
Happening now! Protest against ICE raids at Wisconsin dairy farms!Posted by Voces de la Frontera on Friday, January 12, 2018