Union Strives to Help Families of Fresh Mark Detainees

Union Strives to Help Families of Fresh Mark Detainees

SALEM, Ohio – The union representing immigrant workers affected by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, raid on a Fresh Mark meatpacking plant here June 19 is helping to ensure their families are receiving proper support.

“We’re doing everything we can to help families make ends meet,” said Chelsea Conner, spokeswoman for the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “We’re providing food, clothing diapers and toys.”

On June 19, agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and ICE arrested 146 workers at the Salem Fresh Mark plant during the largest single immigration raid yet initiated by the Trump Administration.

According to an update provided by ICE on June 28, roughly 80 remain in custody “and are in various stages of the removal process,” said Khaalid Walls, ICE spokesman. Male detainees are being held at the Northeast Ohio Correctional Center in Youngstown, while female detainees are being held in the Geauga County jail.

About 40 were released for health or family reasons, Walls said. “The investigation is in its very early stages and will continue,” he said.

Conner said RWDSU is working with St. Paul Catholic Church to dispense necessities for Fresh Mark families. “Our focus is to help our members who have been devastated by this,” she said.

She said that some of those arrested and detained possessed proper documentation and are legally allowed to work in the United States. “This was a quick and violent raid and they were detained whether they had papers or not,” Conner added.

The experience has left many of those who are eligible to work afraid to return to the plant, she said. “They’re afraid to go back to work, and plant is struggling to get to full capacity and its workforce in place.”

Conner said that she believes several more detainees were released before the weekend, and between 40 and 50 still remain in custody. Since Salem is a small town, the loss of 40 to 50 workers and their families has a significant impact on the community.

According to The Guardian newspaper, the union reported that ICE still had 110 unexecuted arrest warrants for Fresh Mark employees across Ohio, but Conner could not confirm that.

She said that the union is preparing to host a citizenship clinic in Salem over the next several weeks to help migrant workers with the necessary paperwork to ensure their legal status, Conner said.

Still, it appears the business at Fresh Mark has resumed uninterrupted, observes Mayor John Berlin. “Their parking lot is full, so it looks like they’re working,” he said.

However, the community is still reeling from the aftermath of the raid, and the mayor pointed to several homes and rental apartments left vacant in the wake of the sweep.

“There are some empty homes and apartments that are empty that weren’t before the raid,” he said. “Some of these folks have decided to leave – that’s a consequence of something like this.”

Pictured: Fresh Mark meatpacking plant was raided by ICE here June 19.

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.