ACLU Accuses Feds of Retaliatory Deportation of Whistleblower Who Sued Fullerton Company

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is "deeply concerned" over federal immigration agents detaining and initiating deportation proceedings against an immigrant worker who filed a federal class action lawsuit against a Fullerton-based firm in August for labor and civil rights violations.

Osfel Andrade, who is one of four named plaintiffs in an ACLU of Southern California lawsuit against Terra Universal, Inc., was arrested at his home Wednesday morning by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

The company produces "clean rooms" and other high tech laboratory equipment for NASA and the U.S. military, as well as the private sector. The Fullerton plant was raided by the feds in June and 43 workers were arrested. Terra Universal is currently under investigation by ICE and the U.S. Department of Labor for alleged exploitation of workers.

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Osfel Andrade
Andrade had filed a complaint against his former employer Terra Universal for back wages before his arrest.

"By singling out and targeting one of four plaintiffs in this lawsuit, ICE sends a very clear and counterproductive message to immigrant workers: if you are a victim of exploitation, don't complain because you might be deported," Jennie Pasquarella, a staff attorney with the ACLU/SC, says in a statement. "ICE went after a worker who had stood up to defend his rights and claim the back wages owed by his employer,"

The consequence of such cases will be driving immigrant workers of unscrupulous employers farether underground, Pasquarella said.

Andrade, who provided information the feds are using in their probe of Terra Universal, should not be arrested but granted a visa available to victims who assist law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of a perpetrator, argues the ACLU.

"Terra Universal routinely required its largely immigrant workforce to work overtime hours without pay," reads the ACLU statement. "The company used a fraudulent time system to evade government scrutiny. It required workers, including Andrade, to clock out at the end of an 8-hour work shift and clock back in as a 'second job.'"

Andrade and other workers who complained about these workplace issues or who suffered injuries were fired, had their pay deducted or their hours reduced and were verbally abused, according to the ACLU/SC, which filed the suit along with its co-counsel Hadsell Stormer Keeny Richardson & Renick in August.

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