Citing fear, dozens of Hispanic workers stay home after central WI immigration arrests

Abbyland Foods (WSAW FILE - 2018)
Abbyland Foods (WSAW FILE - 2018)(WSAW)
Published: Sep. 25, 2018 at 9:02 AM CDT
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Central Wisconsin businesses were impacted Monday when many Hispanic employees chose to stay home for fear of being arrested after immigration agents took dozens of illegal immigrants with arrest warrants into custody across the state this weekend.

More than 80 people did not show up for work Monday at Abbyland Foods in Abbotsford. Abbyland HR Manager Ericka Rossani couldn't confirm the absences were related to the ICE investigations. Rossani did say it was an unusually high number of absences.

At least 10 illegal immigrants were arrested by ICE agents in Wausau, Abbotsford, Colby and Dorchester since Friday. The people taken into custody had warrants for their arrest and ICE was not conducting raids. Still the central Wisconsin Hispanic community is on edge and people living in the United States legally are fearful they could be targeted. Wausau-area Hispanic community advocate Tony Gonzalez tells NewsChannel that is why many of them did not show up for work Monday.

"Even people that were documented were concerned because looking Hispanic would make them feel targeted. During the operation, so many of them called me asking if they should go to work because they were afraid of being taken away from their family," said Gonzalez.

To ease fears, Gonzalez wants the Hispanic community to know that these arrests were not just random raids, they were targeted arrests for people with warrants.

Illegal immigrants also have rights, they are able to see a judge and have legal proceedings.

"They do not have to just sign a piece of paper and be removed back to their home country, even if that is what they are told," said Kelsi Cottle, Wisconsin immigration attorney with KCP Law Group.

Gonzalez agrees that the targeted arrests are helping get criminals out of the country, but says there are many good people who are positively contributing to the community and they should be given a chance.

"If we have to get rid of the bad element that has committed crimes, we do. But the good people that have worked hard and been in this country for many years and paid their taxes, as far as I know, my America wants to give them an opportunity to become part of this community," said Gonzalez.