"Some of them were in their work clothes, some of them were in their underwear and slippers," she said.
Because employers had the power to terminate an employee's contract and repatriate him or her immediately, the temporary workers had little recourse to fight the removals. However, a small group of men present on the day of the raid did stay in the U.S., and joined multiple lawsuits.
The farm in question was owned by the Flo-Sun company, the country's biggest sugar producer. In the weeks following the strike, the owners did not comment.
3. Indian Workers Claim Abuse
After Hurricane Katrina, a marine oil-rig company looked to Indian guest workers to help repair offshore rigs damaged in the storm. The Alabama-based company, Signal International, hired approximately 500 metal workers on H-2B visas in 2006 and 2007.
After coming to the U.S., the workers said that they were recruited under the impression that would be eligible for legal permanent residency through their work. Some workers claimed they had paid exorbitant sums -- upwards of $24,000 -- for the visas.
When the workers learned that H-2B visas didn't lead to permanent legal status, many sought legal help, also claiming that workers had been abused at Signal.
Both the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security opened investigations into claims that the workers faced discrimination and a work environment "laced with ridicule and harassment," The New York Times reported in 2010.
Signal denied the claims, saying that the Indian workers were treated fairly, and that the recruiters who deceived the workers into thinking they would get green cards were not company employees.
Aside from the alleged abuses, the case also involved what might be characterized as an attempt at do-it-yourself deportation. In a deposition related to the case, Ronald Schnoor, Signal's CEO, said that in 2007 he tried to remove several of the workers from the country who were leading protests. Schnoor claimed he was following guidance from federal immigration officials, as the Times reported:
Mr. Schnoor said the "direction" he received from an immigration enforcement agent was this: "Don't give them any advance notice. Take them all out of the line on the way to work; get their personal belongings; get them in a van, and get their tickets, and get them to the airport, and send them back to India."
ICE declined to comment this week on the investigation, and the Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.
The attempt to remove the workers from the country was known to officials at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), according to Schnoor's deposition, the Times reported:
In an internal e-mail message 10 days later, Mr. Snyder reported that another immigration official had assured him in a meeting that day that the agency would pursue any Indian workers who left their jobs, "if for no other reason than to send a message to the remaining workers that it is not in their best interests to try and 'push' the system."
Back in 2010, Brian Hale, an ICE spokesperson, said that even if a company has fired workers employed through the H-2B program, the company "is prohibited from compelling individuals to get on the plane."
Although a federal judge denied a petition for a class-action lawsuit in 2012, workers involved in the dispute are still pursuing individual cases, according to an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is representing some of the men.