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October 10, 2006

IMMIGRATION RAIDS: Local farmers reeling from busts

Crops are rotting as a consequence of recent immigration raids in Orleans, Niagara, Monroe and Genesee counties.

“I’m probably going to end up leaving $2 million worth of crop in the field and it’s adding up every day,” said Maureen Torrey, who owns Torrey Farms, located in Orleans, Niagara and Genesee counties.

Local farmers are up in arms over the raids, with many feeling threatened and fearful of their own government.

Torrey likened her recent experience with immigration officials to war.

“It’s a dirty job and we stand next to them, working together, and then to see these people chased, you feel like it’s Germany all over again,” she said.

Watching those she works with every day get taken away is like having a death in the family, Torrey added.

“Immigration has been going into places of business without warrants and taking people, so people were leaving the area and moving to places where they felt safer,” she said.

Early Wednesday morning, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, through the Department of Homeland Security, barged into Niagara County homes owned by Torrey Farms and caused about $500 in damage, breaking down a door and ultimately trashing the area, Torrey said. Immigration officials could not be reached for comment.

“We have such a large number of people working in this area doing construction and farming,” she said. “But immigration seems to be targeting agriculture.”

ICE has gotten increased funding from Congress, but Congress will not pass a guest worker bill, Torrey said. For the last 11 years she has been steadfast in her work to get the bill passed.

“Just from what I heard on the news, it’s just crazy,” said Jeff Baker of Baker Farms in Ransomville. “They’re killing all of us, (ICE) is.”

After the raid at Torrey Farms, word spread through Latin American work camps like wildfire and workers fled their homes, Baker said. Farms that previously had enough workers to harvest crops for the rest of the growing season, now are left with little help in the fields.

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