The U.S. government will pay more than $1 million to settle a class action lawsuit filed by Tennessee meatpacking plant workers following a 2018 immigration raid, which resulted in the arrestment or detainment of roughly 100 people, most of whom are Hispanic. The workplace raid is one of the largest in US history.
In late February, U.S. District Judge Travis McDonough approved the settlement, calling for the U.S. to pay $475,000 to six individual plaintiffs and $550,000 to a class settlement fund.
The suit claimed that the workers’ 4th and 5th Amendment protections against unlawful searches and self-incrimination were violated when armed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers raided the Southeastern Provisions plant outside rural Bean Station. Allegedly, the officers shouted racial slurs, hit one employee in the face, and held a gun to another’s head. The lawsuit indicated that white workers were not approached in any way, and many stood outside of the cattle slaughterhouse while the raid took place.
The immigration officers, who were at the plant to help execute an IRS search warrant for financial records related to the plant’s owner, James Brantley, did not have warrants for the arrest of the plant employees.
“Today, justice was served to the Latinx workers, and their community, who took a stand against federal agents targeting them because of their ethnicity,” Meredith Stewart, Senior Supervising Attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, told the Associated Press. “The unprecedented, court-approved settlement demonstrates that we, as a nation, will not tolerate racial profiling.”
Brantley pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal charges of up to $2.4 million in tax evasion, wire fraud, and the employment of unauthorized immigrants, among others. The IRS began investigating Brantley, who has owned the meatpacking facility since its opening in 1988, following reports that he made weekly $100,000 withdrawals to pay workers in cash. Sentenced to 18 months in federal prison, Brantley was also ordered to pay more than $1.3 million to the IRS and $1.42 million in restitution.
The raid and its aftermath was the subject of a 2019 Netflix documentary, ‘After the Raid.’