Chester County, PA mushroom farms and locals are being attacked by unwelcome outsiders

Kaolin Farms raid

My town and the surrounding area is home to the mushroom capital of the world, producing over one million pounds of mushrooms per week at the many small farms that pepper the beautiful hills.  Mushroom farming is hard work and a lot of manual labor is required, so these farms provide countless jobs for the local population.  The spent mushroom soil that provides a distinct local “aroma” can be sold as topsoil but at a considerably cheaper price, which is beneficial to the everyone from the local homeowner growing a vegetable garden to farmers with expansive cornfields.

There’s also a vibrant culture that is helped along by this local economy.  The local shops, markets, and restaurants provide wonderful experiences and there are even a few annual festivals.  There certainly are wealthy people who live in the area, but they’re not necessarily the ones who do the work to create this environment for the culture to flourish.  It’s the local business owners and their employees who are the people who largely deserve the credit.

Unfortunately, there has been a sudden disruption to all of this.  A new group has decided to move in and we don’t want them here.  They take jobs away from the local people.  They’ll terrorize a local business with intimidation and will even resort to violence if they feel the desire to.

There have even been reports of kidnapping.

Many locals are now afraid.  Will they lose their jobs?  Will they get harassed while they walk down the street?  Will they be violently attacked?  This is no way to live.

So who is this new group of undesirables?

It is the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  And after about a 20-year hiatus, they’ve come to southeastern Chester County, PA to wreak their havoc.  Michael Matza of has a piece on it following the raid of South Mill’s Kaolin Farms.

Matza writes:

Priscilla Aguilar Chun’s shift as a picker at South Mill’s Kaolin Farms branch in Avondale was just getting started at 7 a.m. when the 21-year-old saw eight U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in khaki slacks and protective vests entering the windowless room where she and a dozen other Latino immigrants labored.

The agents carried photographs of four men they said they were seeking. None of the targets was present, but that didn’t seem to matter, Chun said. The agents blocked the exits and interrogated the workers one by one. An hour later, 12 men, including her 26-year-old boyfriend, were arrested and handcuffed in pairs, one man’s right wrist to another’s left. Taken in a white van to ICE’s Philadelphia field office, they were booked and shipped to York County Prison, where they face deportation.

If the people they were arresting were violent criminals, that would be one thing.  If that were the case, it should be handled by local law enforcement.  In the case of the South Mill Kaolin Farms immigration raid, it is nothing more than federal thuggery and the enforcement of unethical laws.  Its result is the tearing apart of families and the ruining of lives.

The article continues:

Caitlin Barry, director of the Farmworker Legal Aid Clinic at Villanova University Law School, has twice visited the men in prison and is trying to get them legal representation. She said at least eight appear to have no criminal record, and no prior contact with ICE. The others are facing orders of expedited removal.

Barry, Read, and other lawyers have questioned the constitutionality of the raid because it is not clear under what circumstances the ICE agents were permitted to search on private property.

South Mill did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.

However, a day after the arrests, company owner Michael Pia told NBC10, “I do not believe they had a warrant, or no one told me that there was one.” Pia said that the men arrested were not employees of South Mill but were hired through a subcontractor and assigned to the Avondale branch. The report did not name the subcontractor.

In a statement sent to the Inquirer and Daily News on Thursday, ICE said that it “does not conduct sweeps or raids that target aliens indiscriminately” and that the people swept up at Kaolin were arrested “in a targeted enforcement operation.”

Asked whether the agents had Kaolin’s consent, or a judicial warrant permitting them to search the private property, ICE spokesman in Philadelphia Adrian Smith said the agents had the permission of a supervisor, whom he did not identify.

So there are questions as to whether or not this raid was even legal.  Furthermore, should scarce resources really be spent on a problem that doesn’t even exist?  The vast majority of these immigrants came to this area to perform hard work to earn an honest living.  The fact that they may not have the correct paperwork is meaningless from an ethical standpoint.  Their “illegal” immigration does no harm to anyone.

The real harm comes when ICE agents storm into a private business and round up its employees like cattle.  ICE is ruining a good thing.  They are without a doubt the bad guys.

Stay out of our towns, ICE.

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Edward Rogers
The area around Kennett Square PA is interesting. People move into new neighborhoods then complain about the mushroom smell and do not want illegal immigrants in the community but have no problem using them for cheap lawn service. If you go to the local Walmart it is sometimes hard to find employees who speak english. Most of the Mexicans I speak with are very nice people. But please do not make it sound like the illegal immigrants are just here to pick mushrooms and shop at the local Mexican food stores. They send the money they make home to their… Read more »