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Monitoring bracelets removed for health reasons

Monitoring bracelets removed for health reasons

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CEDAR RAPIDS - Federal immigration agents on Monday removed due to health concerns electronic monitoring bracelets from seven workers arrested in last year's raid on Agriprocessors, the workers' attorney said.

Sonia Parras-Konrad, a Des Moines-based immigration attorney, said she presented photos and medical records to prove workers suffered bruises, minor cuts, lower body pains and calluses from wearing the ankle bracelets for more than a year. She also presented a doctor's opinion that the bracelets should be removed immediately.

The workers, who are serving as witnesses for state and federal cases against Agriprocessors, a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, will now be required to check in periodically with Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in Cedar Rapids.

"I don't think the devices are designed and intended to be attached to a person's body for so long. I think this case, it went a little bit too far," Parras-Konrad said.

Tim Counts, a spokesman for ICE in Bloomington, Minn., issued the following statment:

"Officers in ICE's Cedar Rapids, Iowa, office removed electronic GPS monitoring devices from seven individuals today after they presented letters from a physician. The seven are required to check in with ICE on a regular basis."

Parras-Konrad said she tried for months through immigration courts and direct contact with ICE to have the ankle bracelets removed.

She said her clients did not pose a threat to flee because they have lived in Postville without incident for more than a year as government witnesses and are fighting deportation orders in court.

"I think mainly the resistance on the side of the government was because they didn't see it as a big problem carrying the device. Truly it isn't a big problem if you wear it for a few months, except this was for over a year," she said.

Agriprocessors was the site of a raid in May 2008 that led to the arrest of 389 immigrant workers. The government has since awarded 20 former workers visas under a law that protects crime victims.

The plant and several of its managers, including owner Aaron Rubashkin and his son, plant manager Sholom Rubashkin, face immigration, bank fraud, wire fraud and mail fraud charges stemming from the May 2008 raid. Sholom Rubashkin and three co-defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

State prosecutors charged Aaron Rubashkin, his son Sholom Rubashkin, three former managers and the company with more than 9,000 charges. They have pleaded not guilty.

Two former managers have pleaded guilty to charges they helped hire illegal immigrants.

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