The big immigration raid in Portland was likely no surprise to readers of Willamette Week

A writer for the paper got herself hired at Fresh Del Monte Produce and then wrote about it last month.
A writer for the paper got herself hired at Fresh Del Monte Produce and then wrote about it last month.

The story of federal agents rounding up 167 workers in North Portland's Fresh Del Monte Produce plant is big stuff, both in terms of the raid's size and its timing, as lawmakers are struggling to create immigration reforms. The arrest of the workers by 160 federal agents comes after a six-month investigation of the employment agency that funnels workers to Del Monte, North Carolina-based American Staffing Resources. The feds say the two conspired to hire undocumented workers, using fake Social Security numbers and other dodges. If the news took many Portlanders by surprise, Willamette Week writer Beth Slovic is probably not among them. In May, Slovic wrote "Chop Shop," a cover story for the paper in which she got herself hired at the plant and wrote about the experience. The subhead on her story: "In a town that cares about food and human rights, WW finds a hidden world of illegal immigrants." Her story was notable for its Upton Sinclair-like descriptions of the plant conditions and the quick surfacing of the illegal-worker issue: Three of them volunteered to me on our lunch break that they don't have papeles (papers), a sort of polite shorthand for saying they are illegal immigrants. Despite this, one of them tells me she has been cutting broccoli for Del Monte for four years. Willamette Week updated that story with a brief posting after the raid, quoting a local immigration lawyer who set the number rounded up at closer to 200 – meaning either his count was off or several people caught in the net were quickly released. One can only imagine the feds, then running their own secret investigation, reading Slovic's story with horror. Nothing like having the nosy local alt-weekly say the things you plan to say, only a month earlier and without government-speak. Portland Mayor Tom Potter is fuming about the raid. An editorial in The Oregonian, "Give us reforms, not raids," quotes him: "To go after local workers who are here to support their families while filling the demands of local businesses for their labor is bad policy." The paper's editorialists agree with Potter, wondering what such a raid actually accomplishes beyond tearing immigrant families apart.


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