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Migrants In TN Meat Plant Raid Reach $1M Settlement With U.S.

Nearly 100 immigrants who were rounded up during a 2018 raid at a meat processing plant in Tennessee have reached a $1.17 million settlement with the U.S. government and federal agents, who they said used racial profiling and excessive force during the operation, stepping on a person’s neck and punching another in the face. The agreement, approved Monday in a Tennessee federal court, is likely the first class settlement over an immigration enforcement operation at a work site, say immigration experts. In the past, only individual immigrants have reached settlements related to immigration raids, the New York Times reports. Under terms of the settlement, participants in the lawsuit will receive $550,000, or more than $5,700 each. Six named plaintiffs will receive a total of $475,000 from the federal government to resolve their claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which allows individuals to be compensated for negligent or wrongful acts by agents of the federal government. Legal experts called it a rare victory for undocumented immigrants. “It is very hard to win a settlement from the U.S. government and agents in immigration enforcement cases,” said Stephen Yale-Loehr, a Cornell law professor specializing in immigration. “The outcome is particularly important because federal agents were held accountable for overreaching and racial profiling.”

In April 2018, armed agents with the Homeland Security Department and the Internal Revenue Service burst into the Southeastern Provision meatpacking plant in Bean Station, a rural town in northeastern Tennessee, and rounded up all but one Latino worker, including at least one U.S. legal resident and one U.S. citizen. The only exception was a man who had hidden in a freezer. The raid, which federal agents called “The Great American Steak Out,” was part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, with high-profile work-site raids that had last occurred when George W. Bush was president. The operation followed an Internal Revenue Service investigation that had found evidence that the owner of the company, located outside the city of Morristown, was paying plant workers in cash to evade taxes. In February 2019, several nonprofit organizations, including the National Immigration Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center, filed a lawsuit against the federal agents and the U.S. government, accusing them of targeting workers based on their ethnicity and violating their civil rights. Last August, a federal judge certified the case as a class action, paving the way for relief for all the Latino workers.


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