Seattle INS public affairs officer Garrison Courtney acknowledges the April 18 raid, but says INS officials did not act as LSG Sky Chefs management during the meeting, though they did do previous undercover work. "We immediately identified who we were and why we were there," he says. Courtney did not know whether the employees were aware of the reason for the meeting.
The 23 individuals and organizations who signed the letter are demanding that LSG Sky Chefs, and other airport employers, cooperate with INS only as required by law, and don't lie to employees about immigration enforcement procedures.
This civil rights partnership to help immigrants isn't new--groups have been working together since last fall, when immigrants became a target of both federal and local government agencies--but the alliances have strengthened lately as the groups hope to increase their effectiveness.
Last week, folks from Arab-American organizations, civil rights groups, and anti-discrimination coalitions came together at the Seattle ACLU office to discuss immigrants' rights violations since September 11. In addition to the LSG Sky Chefs INS raid, several Somali grocers have lost the ability to accept food stamps, the Turkish owner of Capitol Hill's Bistro Antalya has been detained, and the federal government has proposed putting immigration enforcement in the hands of local police.
The civil rights activists checked in with one another's work and discussed ways of working together in the future. For example, several organizations--like Hate-Free Zone and the Greater Church Council of Seattle--will distribute halal meat, prepared according to Somali custom, to the families who can no longer shop at the three stores targeted by the USDA. (The families haven't had meat in two months).
The groups will also inform Washington congressional representatives about patterns of profiling based on immigrant status.