Monday, June 9, 2008

NCJ Exclusive: ICE in Sun Valley

Posted By on Mon, Jun 9, 2008 at 9:49 PM

Sun Valley Floral Farms let go of 283 undocumented workers today after receiving a letter from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last week indicating that the employees -- from flower pickers to management-level staff -- were not eligible for employment in the United States.

Sun Valley President and CEO Lane DeVries met with his entire staff this afternoon and shared the "shocking" news with them. In a phone conversation today, DeVries described the meeting as "heart-warming and frustrating."

As for the 283 workers who are now jobless, he said, "It really stinks. It’s a raw deal. It’s very sad for everyone. These people bought houses, bought cars, spent money at the Bayshore Mall. This is not good for this community."

And it's bad news for Sun Valley too. "The heart and the soul of our team is getting ripped out," he said. "The heart and soul of our company is no longer with us.

What now? DeVries says he’ll be able to pick up some of the slack with local high schools letting out soon.

But that's only a temporary fix. Some of the workers who were let go today had been with Sun Valley for 17 years, DeVries said.

Mario Meza, general manager of Spanish-language radio station KNCR in Fortuna, told the Journal today that he has received a steady stream of calls from anonymous community members about the layoffs since last Friday .

DeVries insisted that what took place at Sun Valley was not a layoff. "A layoff," he said, "is induced by a company. This has nothing to do with Sun Valley. We had absolutely no choice to do what we did this afternoon."

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Japhet Weeks

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