Latino workers laid off following ICE visit

February 26, 2009 7:14:02 PM PST
Immigrant rights advocates say international pharmaceutical company Neilmed Pharmaceuticals laid of hundreds of workers at its Santa Rosa plant after a visit from an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent. The workers say they were targeted because they are Latino immigrants.

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About 40 of the laid off workers were at Finley Community Park Thursday to voice their anger over what they called racist firings by Neilmed.

Immigrant rights organizers say from 250 to 300 mostly Latino workers are now out of work.

The problem began, they say, Tuesday February 10, 2009, when an investigator from ICE inquired about a Social Security number that was reportedly being used by two workers at the plant.

Immigrant rights activist Miguel Robles says management held a meeting with workers three days later and they were told they had to resign.

Workers who spoke to ABC7 did not want to be identified.

"They asked us to sign a blank paper that didn't say anything which they were going to put our resignations on," one worker said through a translator.

Workers at the rally said the company gave no reason for the layoffs.

Immigrant rights organizers would not comment on the immigration status of those laid off, but they say they were stereotyped as undocumented workers simply because they are Latinos.

They believe the company has now replaced most of those laid off.

Immigrant reform advocate Rick Oltman says Neilmed should have been more vigilant.

"To let go 250 or 300 people after one visit by immigration officers who are checking the dual use of a social security number makes you wonder if this company didn't know all along they were hiring illegal aliens," Oltman said.

Neilmed declined ABC7's request to be interviewed. A spokesman for ICE would not tell us if the agency is investigating the company for labor violations.

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