The workers are scheduled to be deported…
…one week from today. The urgency of the situation led to a rare telephone hearing yesterday morning.
The US Department of Labor – chided by Members of Congress and others for being asleep at the switch during this long Agriprocessors scandal – seems to be trying to play catch up.
The Iowa Independent reports:
Nine former Agriprocessors employees that were swept up during a massive May immigration raid at the plant and are now in a federal penitentiary will be interviewed by the U.S. Department of Labor prior to their deportation.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jon Stuart Scoles acknowledged in his order authorizing the interviews that he was not requiring a future court to admit deposition testimony from the nine men.
“That is, in any further proceeding the Court may consider the circumstances surrounding the depositions, the substance of the depositions, and the other evidence to be presented, and then determine whether Agriprocessors, Inc. would be prejudiced by permitting the introduction of deposition testimony as substantive evidence,” Scoles wrote in today’s order.
The hearing by telephone on the motion to allow the Labor Department to interview the men began as scheduled this morning and, according to court documents, ended after 44 minutes. Both the federal agency and Agriprocessors were represented by two attorneys.
In his written order Scoles noted that the petition filed by the Labor Department was not verified and that no evidence was introduced at the time of hearing, something which did not draw the objection of the Agriprocessors legal team.
Attorneys for the federal government told Scoles that the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor began an investigation into the practices of “donning and doffing” work gear at Agriprocessors in June. During the course of that investigation, 23 immigrants detained during the May raid were interviewed by investigators on July 9 and 10 while the men were being held in Leavenworth, Kansas.
The investigators believed these individuals would be held until their deportation date of Nov. 1. Nine of those interviewed, however, were moved from Kansas to a federal facility in Miami, Florida and scheduled for an Oct. 10 deportation date.
Scoles ordered that the depositions must take place on Oct. 7 and 8 at the correctional facility in Florida.
The Agriprocessors legal team argued that the charges related to “donning and doffing” were “not new claims,” but had already been introduced and placed before the court in a case launched in March 2007. The particular case cited — Salazar et al vs. Agriprocesors — is a case in which the dismissal documents have been sealed by the court for confidentiality related to proprietary information.
The Labor Department has indicated the need for the depositions stem from the agency’s current inability to bring a court action against the Postville meatpacking plant in relation to wage discrepancies.
[Hat Tip: The Other DK.]