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‘Happy to be Free’: ICE Releases Guatemalan Woman from Detention 

A short woman stands beneath a very large tree.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released 28-year-old Guatemalan Lladi Ambrocio-Garcia (pictured) from an Eloy, Ariz., detention facility on May 20, 2022. ICE arrested her during the August 2019 ICE raids on chicken plants in Mississippi and deported her. She tried to return to the country without legal clearance, and ICE arrested her again. She stayed in detention for about eight months before her release. Photo courtesy Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has freed 28-year-old Guatemalan Lladi Ambrocio-Garcia 40 days after her family and immigrant advocates demanded her release and sent a letter to U.S. Rep Bennie Thompson. Thompson, who represents Mississippi’s Second Congressional District, is the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee in Congress, overseeing the Department of Homeland Security, which runs ICE.

Click on the image to read the Jackson Free Press’ award-winning coverage of the August 2019 ICE raids of Mississippi chicken plants. Photo by Ashton Pittman/Courtesy Jackson Free Press

Representatives of civil-rights groups and organizations including the ACLU, NAACP, SPLC, People’s Advocacy Institute, MacArthur Justice Center, the International Museum of Muslim Cultures and Open Door Mennonite Church also held a press conference for Ambrocio-Garcia on May 9, 2022.

Ambrocio-Garcia was among the 680 people arrested in August 2019 following raids on seven poultry plants in Mississippi, including at Koch Foods in Morton, Miss., where she had worked as a chicken cutter for some months.

After her deportation, she attempted to come back into the country without legal clearance, and law-enforcement agents arrested her again. For more than eight months, different ICE detention facilities held her. On May 20, 2022, the law-enforcement organization released her from the Eloy Detention Center in Eloy, Ariz.

‘A Crucial First Step’

In a May 23, 2022, joint press release, the Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity and National Day Laborer Organizing Network described her release as a first step to remedy what they described as the harmful, far-reaching effects of the 2019 raids.

Three people speak with a megaphone in front of a sign that says Free Lladi
From left: National Day Laborer Organizing Network Campaign Strategist Jorge Torres, National Campaign Director Salvador Sarmiento, and Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity Founder and Director Lorena Quiroz advocated to free 28-year-old Lladi Ambrocio-Garcia from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention at a press conference on April 11, 2022. Photo by Kayode Crown

“Lladi Ambrocio Garcia was a victim of ICE’s 2019 workplace raids targeting poultry plants where workers denounced rampant sexual harassment and discrimination,” the press release said. “On Friday, May 20, 2022, Lladi Ambrocio Garcia walked free from ICE’s Eloy Detention Center in Arizona after more than eight months in ICE’s custody and thousands of signatures from supporters around the nation calling for her release.”

“Lladi’s release is a crucial first step in repairing the damage done to hundreds of families after the horrific 2019 ICE raids that targeted plants where workers successfully sued their employers for sexual harassment and racial discrimination.”

In the press release, Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity of Mississippi Executive Director Lorena Quiroz hailed Ambrocio-Garcia’s courage to become public about her situation. “Lladi’s situation is emblematic of the exploitation and retaliation facing victims of the 2019 raids, and of the urgent need to address those ongoing harms,” she said. “But today we want to recognize Lladi’s courage—she chose to fight her case and tell her story publicly, and she is free today as a result.”

The initiative has also garnered over 16,000 signatures from people to send letters advocating for her release to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Maryorkas.

Congressman Thompson wrote to ICE Acting Director Tae D. Johnson on April 14, 2022,  requesting that ICE consider releasing Ambrocio-Garcia pending the outcome of her case.

A man in a suit and wearing glasses sits at a podium with his fingers entwined, behind a sign that says Mr Thompson, Chairman
Congressman Bennie Thompson wrote to ICE Acting Director Tae D. Johnson on April 14, 2022, requesting that ICE consider releasing Ambrocio-Garcia pending the outcome of her case. Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via AP, Pool

“I write to request U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) give all due consideration to Ms. Lladi Ambrocio-Garcia’s request for release from ICE detention as she awaits a final decision on her immigration case,” Thompson wrote last month, as the Mississippi Free Press reported. “Under the previous administration, ICE arrested Ms. Ambrocio-Garcia and hundreds of chicken plant workers at Koch Foods in Morton, Mississippi—a company the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission charged with sexual harassment, national origin, and race discrimination.”

“I welcome the Administration’s decision to end mass worksite enforcement operations and prioritize workplace enforcement against unscrupulous employers,” he continued. “I ask that ICE also consider providing relief to victims of previous mass worksite enforcement operations that targeted exploited workers.”

Ambrocio-Garcia Thanks Supporters

In the Tuesday press release announcing Ambrocio-Garcia’s release, Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity and National Day Laborer Organizing Network said many people have called on the Biden Administration to address the harm of ICE’s retaliatory raids against workers. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas released a memo in October 2021 ending workplace raids like what happened in August 2019.

The Tuesday press release said Ambrocio-Garcia expressed happiness for her release. “I am immensely happy to be free,” she said during a phone call that day. “With all my heart, I thank those who signed the petition, my sister and all my family, and all the people who supported me through everything I was going through.”

Jess Manriquez, a spokesperson for Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity, told the Mississippi Free Press on May 25, 2022, that Ambrocio-Garcia is in California and recovering from the effects the detention left on her health.

People attending a press conference where advocates called for the release of 28-year-old Lladi Ambrocio-Garcia held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(From left) Mississippi NAACP Interim Executive Director Charles Taylor; Black Youth Project 100 member Kadin Love; Jackson CAO Louis Wright; Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Vidhi Bamzai; Jackson People’s Assembly Coordinator Brooke M. Floyd; UM MacArthur Justice Center Director Cliff Johnson; ACLU Mississippi Legal Director Joshua Tom; The Party for Socialism and Liberation member Bazelel Jupiter; Immigrant Alliance for Justice and Equity Executive Director Lorena Quiroz; International Museum of Muslim Cultures staff Savanna Willis and Open Door Mennonite Church Community Pastor Hugh Hollowell Jr. attended a May 9, 2022, press conference calling for the release of Lladi Ambrocio-Garcia. Photo by Kayode Crown

“She’s been in detention for a long time, and she needs to recuperate her health,”  Manriquez said. “And she needs basic necessities like clothes and food; that’s what we’re working on currently with her is getting her basic needs met now that she’s out of detention.”

“She’s just needing clothes and food, (and) we are working on getting some care packages to her and finding folks that are in the area she’s in to see if we can get her some support for that,” Manriquez concluded.

Manriquez related the content of another phone call on May 25, 2022, with the newly released Ambrocio-Garcia. “She said earlier in the call that we had with her today (Wednesday), that the fight continues and that the effects of the raid have not disappeared; she was saying that all abuse and damage must be repaired,” Manriquez related.

“What’s next for her? She says the struggle continues to obtain a work permit. And she said that she felt bad because she was working, and that’s when the raids happened—when she was at work. She wants a better future for herself.”

 

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