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Detained Meatpacking Workers Drop Lawsuit

Lawsuit that claimed the government was violating the rights of meatpacking plant workers detained in an immigration raid was dismissed after key demands were met.

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- A lawsuit that claimed the government was violating the rights of meatpacking plant workers detained in an immigration raid was dismissed after a key demand was met -- keeping the workers in the area, according to an attorney involved in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in May after the raid at Agriprocessors Inc. in Postville in which 400 people were arrested. The lawsuit claimed the detainees were subject to arbitrary and indefinite detention and denied access to attorneys, among other accusations.

It named as defendants Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as government officials including Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. Officials from the U.S. attorney's office said the Postville raid was the largest single immigration raid in the nation's history.

In filing the lawsuit, the lawyers were trying to prevent the detained workers from being transferred out of the state, which has happened in other raids.

Joshua Weir, of the Peck Law Firm in Omaha, Neb., one of the firms representing the workers, said the lawsuit was dismissed July 1 because its demands were met. He didn't specify any other demands or whether the lawsuit could be refiled.

"The goals of the case were met when we reached an agreement with the government wherein they would keep those that were administratively detained within the Iowa jurisdiction," he said Wednesday.

A request for comment from the U.S. attorney's office wasn't immediately returned.

The lawsuit had claimed that a senior immigration official cited evidence that the company violated federal wage and labor laws and racketeering laws. As possible crime victims, the detainees could be eligible for certain U.S. visas that could lead to legal residency, the lawsuit claimed.

It noted, however, that they would lose their eligibility if they were taken out of Iowa, and that they would be less able to testify in any criminal investigation.

The lawsuit also said some detained workers have spouses and children that are U.S. citizens, and could be eligible for immigration relief because of their family ties.

A spokesman for Agriprocessors said the company is watching the developments, but wouldn't comment on the lawsuit.

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