Lladi Ambrocio-Garcia, 28, had only been working at Koch Foods in Morton, Miss., for about eight months as a chicken cutter when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided the facility in August 2019.
Originally from Guatemala, Ambrocio-Garcia was deported after the raid. She later made an unsuccessful bid to reunite with her family in the United States and is now at an ICE detention facility in Georgia.
In a letter, Ambrocio-Garcia’s advocates described her health plight since her imprisonment. They wrote that Ambrocio-Garcia had suffered from COVID 19, as well as kidney infections on two separate occasions. “Today—as a direct result of ICE’s wrongful and retaliatory workplace raids—Lladi is detained at ICE’s Stewart Detention Center in Georgia.”
The Immigrant Alliance for Justice & Equity of Mississippi and National Day Laborer Organizing Network delivered the letter on April 11, 2022, to Mississippi’s U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson’s Jackson office on Medgar Evers Blvd.
They called the congressman for help toward arranging Ambrocio-Garcia’s release, rather than have the federal government deport her. Thompson serves as the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, which oversees the Department of Homeland Security, including ICE.
“As was shared previously (on March 11, 2022), Lladi was deported as a result of the raids, and after making the dangerous journey to reunite with her family, instead of finding protection, she has suffered detention and inhumane treatment in ICE detention,” they wrote in the letter.
‘Release Her and Grant Her Protection’
While noting that Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas released a memo in 2021 stopping such mass work-site raids, the letter the advocates delivered on Monday asked the agency to do more.
“In DHS Secretary Mayorkas’ October 12, 2021, Memorandum on Worksite Enforcement, which put an end to ICE’s mass raids, he stated that the raids ‘misallocated enforcement resources while chilling, and even serving as a toll of retaliation for worker cooperation in workplace standards investigations,’” the letter said.
“In such instances, as the victim of a retaliatory workplace raid, DHS should use its discretion to release her and grant her protection.”
Mayorkas stated in the memo that the department should target employers who exploit unauthorized workers. “Our accomplishments in this area make clear that we can maximize the impact of our efforts by focusing on unscrupulous employers who exploit the vulnerability of undocumented workers,” he wrote in a memo to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Acting Director Tae D. Johnson, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Ur M. Jaddou, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection then-Acting Commissioner Troy A. Miller.
“These employers engage in illegal acts ranging from the payment of substandard wages to imposing unsafe working conditions and facilitating human trafficking and child exploitation,” the secretary added. “The deployment of mass worksite operations, sometimes resulting in the simultaneous arrest of hundreds of workers, was not focused on the most pernicious aspect of our country’s unauthorized employment challenge: exploitative employers.”
Then-U.S. Southern District of Mississippi Attorney Mike Hurst said at a press conference on August 7, 2019, that 650 Homeland Security Investigations special agents arrested about 680 illegal aliens in an immigration enforcement operation in seven sites in Morton, Carthage, Canton, Pelahatchie, Walnut Grove, and Bay Springs in Mississippi.
At the April 11. 2022, media briefing held in front of Rep. Thompson’s Jackson office, Ambrocio-Garcia’s relative, who gave her name as Elizama said, “We know that she is having a rough time; we know that she is sick where she is, and I ask right now that we free her.”
Aura Ambrocio-Garcia, Lladi’s sister, wrote in a letter: “The main motivation of being here is to work to help her parents in Guatemala. As her sister, I only wish that she be released so we can reunite, so she can be here with us.”
Both Elizama and Aura Ambrocio-Garcia spoke and wrote respectively in Spanish, with Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity Founder Lorena Quiroz translating into English.
‘We Are Going to Keep Knocking’
The advocates referred to Thompson’s 2019 letter, where he questioned ICE’s methodology after the Aug. 7, 2019, raid. “There is much that must still be done to fully address the harms committed by ICE, and today, there are tools to take initial steps, beginning with ensuring Lladi’s immediate release,” the immigrants’ rights advocates explained.
As of press time, the congressman had not responded to the Mississippi Free Press’ April 11, 2022, email request for an interview. At the press conference, Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity Founder Lorena Quiroz expressed readiness to work with the congressman but noted the difficulty of meeting him. “We are going to keep knocking, knocking, knocking until he understands that this is a life-or-death matter for people,” she said.
UPDATE: Rep. Thompson later explained in a phone call to the Mississippi Free Press on April 13, 2022, that he is looking into their request.
At the press conference on Monday, National Day Laborer Organizing Network National Campaign Director Salvador Sarmiento linked Koch’s $3,750,000 settlement in 2018 for claims of sexual harassment, national origin and racial discrimination, and retaliation against a class of Hispanic workers in 2018 to the 2019 raid.
“It’s not a coincidence that the raid happened in 2019, targeting some of the same factories where workers had denounced rampant sexual harassment and discrimination,” he said. “It’s not a coincidence that the raid happened in those particular factories.”
“If we acknowledge that the raids in Mississippi were unjust, wrongful, retaliation against these workers, we need to address that harm,” he added. “We need to repair the harms that have been committed to the workers and their families, and the very first step is releasing Lladi from ICE immigrant prison immediately.”
“There is no excuse for Lladi to be detained, not for another month, not for another week, not a day, not another minute.”