Judicial Watch, February 22, 2019
Represented by an extremist nonprofit that lists conservative organizations on a catalogue of “hate groups,” seven illegal immigrants detained in a workplace raid are suing the federal agents that arrested them, claiming that they were racially profiled for being Latino. In a federal court complaint filed this week by their pro bono attorneys at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the illegal aliens assert that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents violated their Constitutional rights against illegal seizures and to equal protection under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
The raid occurred last spring at a slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant in a small rural town called Bean Station in east Tennessee. Agents from ICE and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) raided the facility as part of a lengthy investigation into the owner’s multi-million-dollar tax evasion and fraud scheme. About 100 illegal aliens were arrested, most of them from Guatemala and Mexico and some had been previously deported from the U.S. more than once. At least 54 people were deported immediately, some were released and others faced federal or state charges, according to a local news report following the seize.
The owner of the business, James Brantley, eventually pled guilty to multiple federal crimes, including tax fraud, wire fraud, and employment of unauthorized illegal aliens. The feds say he avoided paying nearly $1.3 million in taxes by hiring at least 150 illegal aliens and paying them off the books in cash. The scheme began in 1988 and continued through 2018 when he got busted. Brantley had reported to the IRS that he had only 44 wage-earning employees, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). To avoid Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax obligations, unemployment insurance premiums, unemployment tax and workers’ compensation insurance premiums he paid illegal immigrants in cash at a rate of $8-$10 per hour.
The feds said it was a criminal investigation from day one, not simply an immigration enforcement action as many open borders activists alleged. “Tax fraud is an outrage to hard-working Americans directly harmed when criminals cheat their obligation to society by failing to pay their fair share, and the employment of illegal workers also poses a serious threat to public safety as the use of fraudulent identity documents exposes Americans to potential identity theft and other financial harm,” said the special agent from ICE Homeland Security Investigations who led the probe.
Leftist groups went ballistic, asserting that illegal immigrants were victims whose “rights” were violated by the federal government. Outraged, the SPLC called it the largest workplace immigration raid since the George W. Bush administration. “What happened on April 5, 2018 was law enforcement overreach, plain and simple,” said the group’s senior supervising attorney Meredith Stewart. “We, as a nation, have a shared set of ideals, rooted in the Bill of Rights: We have a right to be free of racial profiling and unlawful arrests. If we are not willing to uphold those ideals for everyone in this country, then we are all at risk of losing our rights.” In the complaint, SPLC attorneys write that the federal officers conspired to plan and execute the forceful and prolonged seizure of the meatpacking plant’s Latino workforce solely on the basis of their actual or apparent race or ethnicity.
The defendants are nine ICE agents who are accused of using “brutal and excessive force without any provocation.” They cursed, shoved and punched workers, according to the SPLC complaint. A Tennessee group that’s helping in the case says the lawsuit addresses the brutality the workers faced at the hands of agents. The nonprofit, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), claims the workplace raid was an “unconscionable abuse of power” with “human costs.” The SPLC, an Obama-tied leftist group that helped a gunman commit an act of terrorism against a conservative organization, has the lead in the case. A few years ago a gunman received a 25-year prison sentence for carrying out the politically-motivated shooting of the Family Research Council (FRC) headquarters after admitting that he learned about the FRC from the SPLC “hate map.” Prosecutors called it an act of terrorism and recommended a 45-year sentence.