Members of the class action suit filed against several federal agencies for their role in a 2018 Grainger County raid targeting Latino workers pose on the steps of the Joel L. Solomon Federal Building in Chattanooga on Feb. 27, 2023. (Photo: Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights)
Nearly five years after agents from multiple federal agencies illegally detained Latino workers during a Grainger County slaughterhouse raid, a judge on Monday finalized a class action settlement for the workers.
First approved in September, the settlement awards more than $1 million to the 104 members of the class, with $475,000 going to the seven workers who originally filed.
“Nearly 5 years ago an extremist anti-immigration administration weaponized federal and local law enforcement resources to carry out a violent worksite raid that had far-reaching consequences for this community,” Michelle LaPointe, deputy legal director of the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), said Monday at a press conference in Chattanooga. “All of us have come to know the traumatizing and life altering impact of that day, which, as we’ve heard, continues for many until the present.”
Agents with the Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement had planned the raid for more than a year before bursting into the Southeastern Provision plant in Bean Station on April 5, 2018. Court records showed the agencies misled a federal judge about the purpose of the raid, telling a federal judge they were seeking to gather records for a tax evasion case against owner James Brantley.
Instead, the agents rounded up Latino workers, swearing at them and brutalizing some — video footage of the raid shows one agent standing with one foot on the neck of a prone worker — before handcuffing them and loading them onto buses. The workers were held at a nearby National Guard armory building for hours and some were later shipped to immigration detention centers in other states.
White workers at the facility were not targeted.
Lisa Sherman Luna of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition said the raid was like “a bomb going off in the community” but had the unintended effect of bringing support to the workers.
“When tragedy struck, Tennesseans demonstrated what it means to stand up for your community,” she said.
After pushback from lawyers for the agencies, U.S. District Judge Travis McDonough granted the worker group class action status in August.
“All class members are Latino and were, according to (the original lawsuit), targeted for that reason,” McDonough wrote in the order certifying the class. “They were all detained and taken to (a nearby National Guard) Armory for processing … The officers were all trained on the same policy and plan, and all class members were subject to the same treatment according to this plan.
Members of the class action suit were represented by the NILC, the Southern Poverty Law Center and attorneys from private practices.zelaya-v-hammer-class-action-settlement-agreement
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