Two migrant workers arrested by immigration officers in Homewood last month were released on bond Wednesday following fund-raising and petition drives by Adelante Alabama Worker Center.
Marcos Baltazar, a member of the Adelante board of directors, and his son, Juan, 18, spent the month in detention facilities at the Etowah County Jail in Gadsden and in Jena, La.
Both facilities have been cited by human rights groups for their inhumane treatment of detainees, said Reysha Swanson of Adelante, a non-profit organization based in Hoover that unites migrant workers and their families. Read more.
Read BirminghamWatch’s coverage on the Etowah Detention Center and immigration:
Immigration Detention Prolonged in Alabama’s ‘Black Hole’ (Associated Press)
Where Cities Help Detain Immigrants (CityLab)
Awot Negash’s troubles with U.S. immigration officials began in 2001 and spiraled two years ago when Immigration and Enforcement officials knocked on his suburban Washington, D.C., home.
He eventually wound up in a controversial immigrant detention center in Gadsden.
He has been arrested and sent to two centers where immigration officials hold immigrants. He describes the Etowah center in Gadsden as inefficient, unorganized, chaotic and dysfunctional.
Immigration actions in Alabama and Mississippi recently underscore the point: The campaign against undocumented residents is nationwide, not just on the southern U.S. border.
That’s no surprise to at least one group in Birmingham – the lawyers who specialize in immigration disputes and have been handling growing caseloads.
Local immigration attorneys said that where once individuals would have been released on bond, now they are being sent to detainment centers until their court dates, and it could take months or sometimes years for court dates to be scheduled. Read more.
Alabama Site for Detained Immigrants Has History of Abuse Charges, Efforts to Close It
As 2020 rolls in, BirminghamWatch looks back at its biggest stories of 2019, highlighting a different one each day.
After immigration officers detained Marcos Baltazar and his son, Juan, in Homewood one morning last week, the two men were in the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden by nightfall.
Their destination spotlights the Etowah center, a controversial facility adjoining the county jail in Gadsden where federal authorities detain immigrants.
The center has drawn critics’ protests and attempts to close it for years, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office itself tried to close the facility in 2010. That effort hit a maelstrom of resistance from local political officials and their supporters in Congress.
Reports on the center cited deficiencies and violations of federal standards in a number of areas, including crowding, discrimination, retaliation, a lack of adequate mental health care and in many cases no effective medical care, poor food and hygiene at the center and practices that curtailed inmates’ ability to communicate with the outside world. Read more.
Read more on the detention center and immigration:
More of BirminghamWatch’s Best in 2019
Nearly three dozen people attended a press conference Tuesday at the Adelante Alabama worker center to support two of their own who were detained by agents of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
They sat behind media cameras as a panel of their leaders and representatives talked about Adelante board member and immigrant workers’ rights leader Marcos Baltazar and his son Juan, who were detained by ICE agents last week in Homewood.
Leaders of Aldelante Alabama said they consider the detentions to be intimidation of the immigrants.
Updated — Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in Homewood today detained a board member of Adelante Alabama Worker Center, a human rights group based in Hoover that has been active in obtaining the release of immigrant detainees.
Marcos Baltazar and his son, who’s name was not disclosed, were detained, said Resha Swanson, Adelante policy and communications coordinator.
The two, who are immigrants, were making a routine check-in with ICE at the time of their arrest. Read more.
It may have been an uneasy quiet for the large number of Hispanics among the 86,000 people employed in the Alabama poultry industry, but it has been quiet here since the 680 workers at Mississippi plants were arrested Wednesday by immigration authorities.
The Alabama Poultry and Egg Association’s communications director, Huck Carroll, said Friday that the association is not aware of any ICE raids or other activity at the state’s processing plants.
Alabama is home to 19 “meat-type broiler processing plants, processing over 21 million broilers per week” for over 1 billion a year, the association says. Alabama is second only to Georgia in the chicken business.