OAKLAND – Leaders of labor, immigrant rights and community groups held a press conference April 17 at the Federal Building here to protest the action of the Immigration and Naturalization Service(INS) in harassing and arresting immigrant workers at area airport terminals.

Since Sept. 14, more than 700 workers have been charged, arrested, fired or deported in the course of raids at 14 airports – 44 of them at four northern California terminals.

Katy-Nunez Adler, Immigration Specialist with the Center for Third World Organizing and a speaker at the press conference, labeled the INS raids as “the worst kind of hypocrisy. First the INS forces undocumented workers into the shadows. Then they claim these workers are a security risk because they are in the shadows. The fact that not one immigrant airport worker has been charged with terrorist activities shows how irrelevant this operation is to promoting aviation safety.”

Alameda County Central Labor Council Executive Secretary Judy Goff pointed to the strong support for the rights of immigrant workers registered by the National AFL-CIO at conventions and regional rallies across the country. “I call on our elected representatives in Congress,” Goff said, “to pass legislation defending the workplace rights of immigrant workers and their right to join unions without harassment or threats of deportations.”

Adolph Felix, representative of Teamsters Local 78 and speaking for the local’s 6,500 members, said, “I resent the INS raids. They attack working people trying to support their families and create fears of deportation. We have to stand together.”

A delegation that included Goff; Susan Starr, a leader of the Unitarian Church in Oakland; Lillian Galedo, director of the Committee for Immigrant Rights; Keith Carson, president of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors; and David Bacon, labor journalist, left the press conference to meet with INS officials in the federal building.

The meeting had been arranged by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), The delegation was able to submit a list of questions to the INS representative, but the INS refused to give any answers, saying that they would pass the questions on to their national office in Washington.

The author can be reached at ncalview@igc.org