$1M settlement in lawsuit over federal immigration raid

Feb 27, 2023, 8:22 PM | Updated: Feb 28, 2023, 10:44 am

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A federal judge has approved a settlement of more than $1 million in a class action lawsuit that challenged a federal immigration raid at an eastern Tennessee meatpacking plant where about 100 people were arrested.

The settlement approved by U.S. District Judge Travis McDonough on Monday calls for the U.S. government to pay $475,000 to six individual plaintiffs and an additional $550,000 to a class settlement fund for nearly 100 workers detained almost five years ago, news outlets reported.

The lawsuit claimed the Southeastern Provision workers’ 4th and 5th Amendment constitutional rights were violated in April 2018 when armed officers raided the Bean Station plant, using racial slurs, shoving guns in their faces and punching one worker in the face. It also alleged that officers didn’t know workers’ identities or immigration statuses, only that many were Hispanic.

White workers at the plant, meanwhile, were not accosted, detained, searched or arrested, and many stood outside smoking during the raid, the lawsuit said.

During the raid, officers were helping to execute an Internal Revenue Service search warrant for financial documents related to James Brantley, the plant’s owner. Agents did not have warrants for the arrest of any of the workers — only to search the business for tax violations, according to the lawsuit.

Brantley later pleaded guilty to federal charges of employing unauthorized immigrants, tax evasion and wire fraud.

“Today, justice was served to the Latinx workers, and their community, who took a stand against federal agents targeting them because of their ethnicity,” said Meredith Stewart, senior supervising attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project. “The unprecedented, court-approved settlement demonstrates that we, as a nation, will not tolerate racial profiling.”

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