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Civil rights activists seek legal aid for immigrants
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14:24, February 13, 2008

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Civil rights activists have accused U.S. immigration officials of denying legal aid to some of the 130 suspected undocumented workers caught during a raid by federal agents in Los Angeles, local media reported Tuesday.

In a news conference outside the Federal Building in downtown Los Angeles Monday, Stacy Tolchin, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild, accused officials from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency of not allowing some of the workers access to attorneys for their post-raid interviews.

Tolchin said the ICE, which is under the leadership of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, was using "coercion tactics" to force the workers into admitting they were unlawfully in the United States before they could get a court hearing.

Also at Monday's news conference, a worker detained last week said ICE agents were physically and verbally abusive to the workers during last week's raid on a factory.

ICE agents told the workers they could not call their families, separated the men from the women and handcuffed some people so tightly their hands turned purple, he said.

Tolchin said activists were considering filing a civil rights lawsuit against the ICE.

After the raid last week, the ICE let some of the workers go, but summoned them for interviews scheduled for this week, Tolchin said.

But ICE spokeswoman Virginia Kice said after the news conference that the workers were not required to have attorneys present because ICE officials were merely gathering information and not conducting criminal proceedings.

Kice said the interviews were necessary because ICE officials did not have enough time or space to process all 130 workers in the immediate hours after the raid.

Some of the workers had humanitarian issues and had to be returned to the plant before the end of their work shift, she said.

"They'll have an opportunity to go before an immigration judge," Kice said.

More interviews are scheduled for the rest of this week, she said.

Eight suspected undocumented workers were arrested and another 130 were taken into detention during the raid.

It is illegal to knowingly hire illegal immigrants, but no company officials were immediately arrested, although the investigation was ongoing, Kice said.

Source: Xinhua

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