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So-called “insurance fraud bust” is a senseless and cruel immigration raid targeting workers who benefit all Floridians

Miami, FL – On Wednesday, over 100 fruit workers in Naples, FL, were arrested after the Florida Department of Insurance raided the Fruit Dynamics packing plant.

The following is a statement made by Maria Rodriguez, Executive Director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition:

“The so-called ‘insurance fraud bust’ at the Naples produce company was in fact a scandalous and cruel immigration raid. It punished the hardworking immigrants who sustain Florida’s thriving fruit industry with criminal charges and jail at the taxpayer expense. It is unclear whether any of those arrested ever even filed a workman’s compensation claim, much less a fraudulent one. As a matter of fact, exactly 2 years ago,a similar situation happened at Waste Pro USA in St. Lucie county, where over a dozen workers were arrested. Finally, the charges for workers’ compensation fraud were dropped.

“What is clear is that those arrested in Wednesday’s raid—some of them pregnant women—are part of an undocumented workforce that is the backbone of Florida’s most important industries: agriculture and tourism. The immigrant workers who benefit all Floridians are now being cruelly incarcerated for working some of the hardest jobs at the lowest pay. America’s undocumented workers contribute $8.9 billion a year to the social security fund of U.S. citizens, of which they will never benefit from. To portray them as ‘thieves’ is hypocritical and absurd.

“It is no secret that many immigrant workers are forced to use invalid social security numbers, often with a wink and a nod from their employers, if they want to survive and feed their families. Employers knowingly rely on these workers for their own economic survival. What else can we expect when there are 11 million undocumented immigrants still waiting for our government to fix our broken immigration system so they can finally live and work without fear?

This raid, directed by the Florida Department of Financial Services, demonstrates that instead of fulfilling their mission to protect all hardworking Floridians, our elected officials are doing the opposite. Our Chief Financial Officer, Jeff Atwater, celebrated the raid, even though the investigation began when his officers went after a Floridian who went to the doctor after being injured on the job. Instead of investigating the company’s safety conditions, where a majority of the workers are women, Mr. Atwater arrested employees who served the plant dutifully for years.

“We call on Mr. Atwater, a Republican elected official, to drop the charges and use Florida taxpayers’ resources on real threats to our fiscal well-being, not persecuting Florida’s humblest workers. This raid seriously undermines the department’s mission, Florida’s economy, and ultimately the safety and well-being of all of Florida’s families.

We also call on ICE – Immigration and Customs Enforcement – to ensure that no worker is deported out of this raid. Enforcing workplace rights, including workers’ compensation, should never lead to deportation.”