Call for immigration reform following raids

May 6, 2008 7:24:54 PM PDT
In San Francisco, there is a renewed call for immigration reform following last week's raid of a restaurant chain.

Dozens of workers were detained and the restaurants had to temporarily shut down.

At least six of the eleven Bay Area El Balazo restaurants were open today. A simultaneous raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents on the taqueria chain on Friday netted 63 undocumented workers and closed the restaurants temporarily.

ICE says, by Friday evening, all but ten workers were allowed to go home to await further immigration hearings.

On Tuesday at San Francisco City Hall, immigration activists called for a change in immigration law.

"What we're calling for is a comprehensive immigration reform that will lead to a path for documentation for the millions and millions of people who are here," says Eric Quezada.

The San Francisco Immigrant Legal and Education Network says raids like these cause fear and pain in the immigrant community.

"We need also to have economic treaties that don't impoverish our neighboring countries which creates the necessity for displacement from home countries," says Quezada.

Lawyers for the detained workers say some are being denied their basic rights.

"This is an egregious violation of human rights and constitutional rights. People are being denied the right to counsel. There were coercive investigations. When raids happened, weapons were displayed," says attorney Francisco Ugarte.

ICE says the raids were part of an ongoing investigation and that everyone is being given their due process.

The agency notes:
"The United States has one of the most generous immigration systems in the world. Our country welcomes individuals who follow the legal channels to enter the United States. At the same time, we seek to identify and remove those who violate the law."

El Balazo's owners could not be reached for comment and ICE is not saying if the company itself is a target in their investigation.

ABC7 EXTRA:

ICE says it provides a list of attorneys who provide pro bono services for the detainees. The detainees do have to make the contact themselves, but ICE says it is not going to let lawyers in to "shop for clients". And ICE says it would honor a detainee's request to see a lawyer.


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