POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE Power Plays MOVE ‘EM OUT After arresting 361 undocumented workersmostly womenin a commando-style raid on a Massachusetts sweatshop in early March, federal officials quickly loaded about 200 of them onto planes and flew them to Texas before a federal judge could step in. At press time, they were sitting in detention centers in Harlingen and El Paso. “They are very sad. They’re confused. They were swept away without being able to say goodbye to their children,” says Harlingen attorney Jodi Goodwin, who is working pro bono with other lawyers trying to help the workers. Goodwin says one female detainee is four months pregnant and was forced to sit for 14 hours with her hands and ankles shackled. “It’s horrendous,” she says, “simply horrendous.” The raid, dubbed “Operation Frontline,” was 11 months in the planning and involved nearly 600 agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. On the morning of March 6, ICE agents descended on the Michael Bianco Inc. plant in New Bedford, Mass., and arrested the owner and top managers for harboring and employing illegal aliens. The plant makes aircrew survival vests and lightweight backpacks for the U.S. military. The undocumented workers, who worked mostly as “stitchers,” were shipped off to a nearby military base. Many had small children at home or ailing relatives, and didn’t have time to make arrangements for them. “It was awful. Parents didn’t know where their kids were or who was taking care of them,” says Anna Medina, who works at St. James Catholic Church in New Bedford. The church became the hub for the traumatized community. “There was a lady who was 43 years old. They didn’t believe she had a 4-month-old baby, and they told her, ‘Your crying isn’t going to help you.’ These people are human beings. They’re not animals. They’re not trying to take anything from anybody.” Officials from the Massachusetts Department of Social Services worked around the clock to get mothers with small children released or to make other arrangements for their children. Meanwhile, a phalanx of attorneys, law students, and paralegals who had gotten wind of ICE’s plan to move the detainees raced to identify the women and secure a federal restraining order that would stop authorities from transferring the workers. The government moved more quickly. At about 8 p.m. on March 7, the day after the raid, 90 detainees, most from Central America, were flown to Harlingen. An hour after the group of Boston attorneys filed its motion for a restraining order, another 116 workers \(88 Guatemalans, 22 Hondurans, three Mexicans, one Portuguese, and a plane bound for El Paso. A federal judge granted the request for a temporary restraining order on March 9, allowing roughly 90 undocumented workers to remain in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Others arrested were processed and released by immigration authorities. John Willshire Carrera, an attorney for the Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinic of the Greater Boston Legal Services, says the speed with which the government actedboth in moving the detainees and responding to legal effortsshowed the operation had been planned well in advance. “They had the people moved out within 50 hours,” Carrera says. “It was an incredibly fast operation.” LUDACRIS CENSORSHIP One of the chart-topping pop songs of the moment is “Runaway Love” by Atlanta hip-hop star Ludacris and R&B singer Mary J. Blige. The song is notable as one of the few recent hip-hop hits that isn’t misogynist and actually has a social-justice message. The verses, rapped by Ludacris while Blige sings a soulful refrain, tell stories of abused and neglected young girls who run away from home. One lyric goes, “The days go by and her belly gets big/The father bails out he ain’t ready for a kid/ Knowin’ her mama will blow it all outta proportion/Plus she lives poor so no money for abortion.” Listeners to 96.7, KISS-FM, in Austin, owned by Clear Channel Communications Inc., haven’t heard it quite that way. The version on 96.7and probably stations in other Southern citieshacks off the phrase “no money for abortion” in favor of an odd, offbeat second of silence. Popular radio edits out curses and other foul language from songs all the time. But why would a station censor a reference to a medical procedure that at least last time we checkedis legal? Especially from a song intended to raise awareness about social issues? We put that question to Jay Shannon, program director at KISS-FM. He says record companiesin this case, Def Jam Recordingslet radio stations choose among several versions of songs. Labels often will cut dirty, clean, and super-clean edits. Shannon says the station chose the super-clean version of “Runaway Love” mainly because it deleted a lyric about the sexual abuse of a 9-year-old girl. He says the reference to child molestation was inappropriate to air, and that the super-clean version also deleted the abortion phrase. \(Clear Channel, he says, has no say in the programming at individual stacompany’s decision to edit out abortion. “We’re not a political station,” he says. A spokesperson for Def Jam Recordings says radio stations sometimes ask the record company to delete words from the super-clean version. “I don’t know if [this case] was the label that did it or the radio station asking them to take it out,” says Portia Kirkland, 4 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MARCH 23, 2007
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