Madison immigration raid sparks familiar concerns

D & D Industries in Madison (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)
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October 23, 2019 - 10:14pm

An immigration raid in Madison, Nebraska on Wednesday was a surprise. But it raised some familiar concerns, and responses.

The raid took place at a Madison business called D & D Industries, a manufacturer of skids and pallets located across the road from a sprawling Tyson meatpacking plant. Madison is a town about a dozen miles south of Norfolk with about 2400 people, roughly half of them Hispanic, according to the Census Bureau.

Nicole Alberico, a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said special agents with ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations conducted the law enforcement operation Wednesday and arrested 14 people on immigration violations – 11 from Mexico and 3 from Guatemala.

Raul Arcos-Hawkins (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)


Within hours, immigration advocates and lawyers gathered at the local high school to offer help to the families of those arrested. Among them was Raul Arcos-Hawkins, who graduated from Madison High School nearly 20 years ago and remembers another raid at what was then the IBP meat processing plant.

“I was in school and all I remember is my mom calling me and saying ‘Hey, Immigration’s here.’ And I knew she was fine because she had a work permit. But it was that fear of not knowing who of the people in my class, or underclassmen, if their parents had been taken away,” he said.

Arcos-Hawkins now works as a community organizer with the Heartland Workers Center in Grand Island, and said he sprang into action when he heard about the latest raid.

“A lot of those memories of feeling helpless and not knowing what to tell people came back. I knew that there was fear in the community when it happened a while back. And then this morning, when I found out that this was going on, I knew immediately that I had to come and try to help, as much as I could, the community that saw me grow up and that gave me so much,” he said.

Also on hand at the high school Wednesday was Leticia Rodriguez of the state’s Latino American Commission, who has lived in Madison 30 years.

Leticia Rodriguez (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

Rodriguez said the relatives who gathered at the school were upset. “They’re pretty nervous and pretty shaky. And they never saw it coming of them, they just recently had come here and they are very uncertain because they came in on an asylum kind of visa. And then they were doing all the right proceedings and he just started working there and this happens,” she said.

In case you missed it, Rodriguez was saying that one person who was arrested had recently been admitted to the country with an asylum visa for refugees, making their way through what she described as the chaos at the southern border.

While Wednesday’s action came as a surprise, the atmosphere at the high school as relatives arrived appeared calm. Arcos-Hawkins brought with him a supply of cards informing people of their rights.

Back, front, and inside of cards that were distributed (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

In English and Spanish, the cards read “If you are questioned by immigration authorities and law enforcement, you can say I have a constitutional 5th Amendment right to be silent. I am not answering your questions (only give your name). I am not opening the door unless you have a signed warrant by a judge,” and “I want to talk to my lawyer.”

The cards bear the logos of 10 organizations that work with immigrants ranging from Catholic Charities to the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Nebraska State Bar Association.

Arcos-Hawkins said he brought a similar supply of cards to O’Neill Nebraska after an immigration raid there last year. In that case, in addition to arresting more than 100 workers, officials also arrested 17 people who were charged with exploiting illegal alien laborers for profit. ICE made no mention of any similar arrests in its brief press release Wednesday.

Ricardo Sanchez Mendez, deputy consul for the Mexican consulate in Omaha, said he traveled to Madison Wednesday to make sure his fellow citizens’ rights were protected. “They should be treat(ed) with respect and dignity, since they are people who are working because they have a special need. They need to work. They need to take care of their relatives, of their families,” he said.

Sign outside Madison High School reflects significant Hispanic population (Photo by Fred Knapp, NET News)

Sanchez Mendez said he was impressed by favorable attitudes toward people from Mexico in Madison, which he said reflected their importance to the community and the economy. “We can see how the people are happy with the Mexican people, because we are very important for the economy of Nebraska and Iowa. My people is very important in the whole country, and that’s something we cannot deny,” he said.

ICE spokesperson Alberico said the people arrested remain in custody pending disposition of their immigration cases. And the agency’s website says “Effective worksite enforcement plays an important role in the fight against illegal immigration.”





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