Swift & Co CEO: raid was just for show
Posted Mon, Feb 5, 2007 at 12:58 am
Sam Rovit - president and CEO of Swift & Co. whose locations were targeted in an immigration raid in December - conducted an interview with the Greeley Tribune, saying:
"The government declined to work with us. They never came right out and told us who might be involved," Rovit said. It became apparent, he said, "they were looking for a marquee to show the administration it was tough on immigration."Shortly before the raids they tried to get an injunction stopping them from happening, and Rovit says they weren't trying to prevent the raids but only coordinate them on a plant-by-plant basis. ICE scheduled the raids - then postponed them a day because the Japanese government was touring Swift's plants before re-allowing U.S. beef to be shipped to Japan. And:
Swift, he said, just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, despite doing everything it could to comply with hiring practices established through the federal government's Basic Pilot Program, which is designed to help employers check applicants' immigration status.
"It was like pulling a thread on a sweater and the whole thing unraveled," Rovit said.
From March leading up to the raids, Swift attempted to comply with what the government was trying to do, but they and politicians who attempted to help were told there was an ongoing criminal investigation, meaning neither ICE nor the Department of Justice could discuss what the agencies were doing.
Rovit said ICE had access to criminal backgrounds that companies or politicians cannot access.
So the company began its own review of employment records, using I-9 employment papers required by the government.
"Basically, we called people in and asked them 'are you who you say you are?'" Rovit said. More than 400 employees from five plants said they weren't, and they left the company, Rovit said.
Shortly thereafter, ICE cracked down on Swift, telling the company it couldn't conduct the reviews. But Rovit produced a letter from ICE which said, in part, "at no time has anyone from ICE told any Swift office that they cannot take action against employees who Swift determines, on its own, are unauthorized to work in the United States." The four-week review of employees started right after Swift got that letter.
"That day was like a slow motion train wreck," he said, noting the raids were staged for political impact and to get the most media coverage. It cost Swift $30 million in lost production and productivity.These statements are obviously self-serving. But, given the Bush administration's history of conducting show raids for political purposes only, there's a very good chance that part is true, and it's possible that some of his other statements are true as well.