Published in the May 1 edition of Street Roots
Now, when they talk about it, Zaida Villatoro and the other women refer to it simply as “La Redada,” The Raid: an event that stands between one life and another. A few of them have made it their business to talk about it, to share their stories with those willing to hear.
June 12, 2007 was another cold day in the plant — cold and damp. Villatoro was cutting fruit at the Del Monte Fresh Produce food processing center in North Portland. She’d been handling vegetables for several weeks, chopping them for salads to be sold in plastic boxes, but when fruit season came she was reassigned.
She heard a co-worker yell, “Run, run! La migra!” Agents of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were raiding the premises.
Everyone fled, Villatoro says, and it was chaos. She saw people climbing on piles of crates, and others racing out the back door. About eight scrambled up and hid near the ceiling. She thinks they stayed until dark and somehow snuck out. One woman climbed high and fell, and an ambulance took her away.
The workers were herded through a hallway and onto a platform where ICE agents took their names and searched them — their hair, clothes, everything.
“I wanted to run to the bathroom and vomit,” Villatoro says, “I was so afraid.”