Nearly 2,000 immigrant-rights protesters marched through Denver Thursday morning, carrying signs saying "Immigration rights are human rights" and demanding that the next president make comprehensive immigration reform a priority, reported Colorado's Greely Tribune.

"We want to stop the raids," Ramon Del Castillo, chairman of the department of Chicano studies at Metropolitan State College in Denver, told the Greely Tribune. "We want to build bridges not walls. We want the deaths in the desert to stop."

The protest takes place a couple of days after the largest immigration crackdown on a United States workplace in recent years. On Monday U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided a factory located in Laurel, Mississippi owned by Howard Industries Inc., and detained nearly 600 workers.

This week the American Civil Liberties Union began an investigation of ICE's conduct and called on the Bush administration to ensure that constitutional rights are respected going forward.

ICE raids have increased in the last few years and have become a growing cause of concern in rural communities. Prior large raids include the sweep of Agriprocessors, the nation's largest kosher meatpacking plant, in Postville, Iowa where nearly 400 workers were detained and the December 2006 six-state raid at Swift & Co. meatpacking plants, where 1,297 were arrested.

The Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group working to support immigrants, calls the worksite raids a devastating blow to businesses, families and communities in the name of immigration enforcement. As Facing South reported in 2007:


Immigration raids do nothing to improve this situation for workers. In reality, the costly raids end up separating families and tearing up communities -- all for a short-term solution to the long-term problem of immigration reform.

USA Today's opinion page stated earlier this month that these raids leave scars on the community, and towns economically and socially unstable. According to the paper:

Sure, the raids ensnare a negligible number of undocumented workers, but what do they really accomplish? The Des Moines Register reported that Postville has lost one-third of its population, and that Agriprocessors has begun importing homeless people from Texas to work, leading to a rise in crime, public drunkenness and a run on food banks.

True, the raid exposed a range of possible workplace violations, including child labor and safety issues. But investigators were already looking into these abuses, independent of ICE. Illegal immigrants will clam up in this new climate of fear. The best way to halt these abuses is with comprehensive reform.