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Ellison, religious leaders rally in support of workers held on immigration charges

Minnesota’s 5th District Rep. Keith Ellison and state religious leaders are fasting for 24 hours on behalf of workers from India who were arrested on immigration charges and are being held in Fargo.

Apparently the workers came to the United States after Hurricane Katrina, paying $20,000 each for the chance to work as welders and pipefitters. They said they were told they’d get U.S. citizenship.

After being held in what they called prison-like forced labor camps in the South — and discovering that their visas were only good for 10 months — some of the workers walked out and filed a complaint asking the Department of Justice to look into the situation as a human-trafficking case.

While waiting for action on their complaint, they began working on construction of a North Dakota ethanol plant. Twenty-three were arrested there in October by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The workers are supported by many religious and political leaders.

“I join my friends in the faith community in solidarity with the survivors of trafficking detained by ICE.  We do so to bring attention to their plight and ask for their immediate release,” said Ellison in an announcement of the fast.

Also joining in the fast are Lutheran Bishop Craig Johnson, 36 pastors and AFL-CIO President Ray Waldren.

Ellison, a Minneapolis Democrat, told Minnesota Public Radio: “You know, we should go after the main movers who are the traffickers.”

The fasting group will speak in front of the Federal Building in Minneapolis at 2:30 p.m. today, repeating their request that the workers be released.

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