January 18, 2022

ICE raid stirs local fears

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

EZ Acres employee Clayton Ingrahm works on farm equipment to feed dairy cattle Tuesday in Scott. As requested by farm owner Mike McMahon, no photos were taken of migrant workers.

HOMER — Farm employers worry about what could happen to their migrant employees in wake of a recent farm raid in Oneida County. Federal lawmakers are trying to ease those concerns.

“Everyone in the (agriculture) industry is concerned,” said Mike McMahon, co-owner of E-Z Acres Dairy Farm in Homer.

In April, agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement without a warrant entered a Rome farm and detained a migrant worker, who had been deported three times since 1997 — once after an aggravated assault conviction and twice after illegal re-entry to the United States.

The owner of the farm was handcuffed.

In recent weeks legislation has been proposed, employer audits have surged and concerns about ICE have grown.

Following the Rome incident, McMahon said he’d hope someone with greater power would step in to make sure an incident like that would not happen again and enforcement officers would adhere to legal guidelines.

The raid comes as ICE has focused on employers with a surge of deportation arrests of workers that started immediately after President Donald Trump took office in January 2017. The crackdown, the Associated Press reports, is likely to please immigration hawks, but may alienate industries and companies that rely on immigrant labor.

Under a 1986 federal law, companies must verify their employees are authorized to work in the United States by reviewing their documents and verifying to the government the employees’ identity and work authorization.

Half of McMahon’s hired help are migrant workers. In some South American schools, students can receive training in animal handling — which also includes diagnosing problems and illnesses.

McMahon and employers like him do their best to look at documentation and attempt to distinguish between what is legal and illegal. “There is no way of vetting these people,” he said.

To help deal with the growing concerns surrounding ICE, migrant workers and keeping the agriculture industry stocked with workers, McMahon suggested Congress consider immigration reforms to address the needs of the industry.

EZ Acres employee Clayton Ingrahm works on feeding dairy cattle Tuesday in Scott.

Last week, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) announced a bill to require accountability and transparency within Customs and Border Protection and ICE by establishing a formal record-keeping process of all stops and searches. Currently, there is no required record-keeping process for officers making a patrol stop or inspection, except in cases of arrest or use of force by an office.

“When border patrol agents stop and question people in New York and in many places across the country, they aren’t keeping data about why they targeted a particular person or what happened during their encounter,” Gillibrand said in a release. “Congress has a responsibility to make sure our border patrol agencies are transparent and accountable, just like every law enforcement agency in our country should be.”