$1.2M settlement reached in feds’ slaughterhouse raid targeting Grainger Co. immigrant workers

Southeastern Provision slaughterhouse in Grainger County. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

by Jamie Satterfield, Tennessee Lookout

A $1.175 million settlement has been reached in a lawsuit over federal agents’ treatment of Latino workers at a Grainger County slaughterhouse, court records show.

The proposed settlement agreement was filed late Wednesday in U.S. District Court. It still requires approval from U.S. District Judge Travis McDonough.

According to the settlement, the seven Latino workers who originally filed the suit will receive a total of $475,000. All other members of the remaining class of workers impacted by the April 2018 raid will receive a total of $550,000, with each of the 100 class members expected to receive between $5,000 and $6,000 each.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and National Immigration Law Center, which brought the case on behalf of the Latino workers at the Southeastern Provision slaughterhouse in Bean Station, Tenn., will receive $150,000 in legal fees and expenses.

“The Settlement provides meaningful monetary relief for approximately 100 class members who were Latino employees detained during the April 5, 2018 enforcement operation at the Southeastern Provision meat processing plant,” attorneys for the workers stated in the Wednesday filing.

The settlement also allows each of the Hispanic workers impacted by the raid to obtain a letter from the federal government “confirming their status as a class member in this case that class members may submit when seeking immigration relief.”

Workers who were not legally authorized to work or reside in the United States will not gain automatic immigration relief, however, as part of the settlement. The settlement agreement says immigration officials can consider the letter as part of the deliberative process.

immigration raid settlement

Subterfuge and racial profiling

Court records in the litigation have revealed that law enforcers from agencies including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Internal Revenue Service misled a federal magistrate judge about the purpose of the raid when seeking approval for a search warrant.

The agents insisted they only sought to gather records to support a tax evasion case against plant owner James Brantley, but records unearthed by attorneys for the workers showed the agencies used the search warrant to mount a workplace immigration raid unprecedented in scale in Tennessee.

Video obtained by the Tennessee Lookout via legal action showed the agents stormed inside the plant, immediately began separating white plant workers from those with brown skin, mocked the Latino workers and brutalized at least two of them.

The Latino workers were handcuffed, loaded onto buses and transported to a National Guard armory building in a neighboring county without any legal basis or paperwork and held them there for hours. Many were later shipped out to immigration detention facilities without notice to their families.

White workers, on the other hand, were allowed to go free even though the agents knew Brantley had been paying all of his employees in cash to avoid payroll taxes. Brantley was not arrested during the raid, either. He later struck a deal to plead guilty to tax evasion and was sentenced to 18 months in a federal work camp. Two white plant supervisors were allowed to strike deals, too, receiving probationary sentences.

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Published on October 14, 2022.