On a walk with her son in broad daylight last week on Sunset Boulevard, Lita Leone found herself overwhelmed by the sight of so many people and bodies. Blood-stained buses and emergency vehicles were scattered across the front of a main street where she lives.
Since August, hundreds of families in the wake of California’s long-term meatpacking plant contamination outbreak have pulled together to form the Escondido Regional United Immigration and Customs Enforcement Support Network (Res). It is essentially a coalition, operating under the umbrella of Res, which has been collecting DNA data for undocumented residents since the outbreak. They are working to force the U.S. Department of Agriculture to pay restitution to immigrant families whose loved ones died from breathing poisoned air.
On Friday, Ms. Leone found herself nearly in tears as she watched dozens of self-identified MS-13, 18th Street and Honduras Cartel gang members armed with machine guns, followed by a handful of sheriff’s deputies. Many of them posed for photographs in front of the shuttered Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. packing plant as they rallied with, and labeled “reparations of migrants, not for Mexicans,” onsite residents, who ranged from cleaning ladies to gang members. It took Ms. Leone — who lives a few blocks away — two minutes to find her son, Matthew, 27, who is here illegally, and so far has not received any form of restitution payment.
She said that the home she shares with her parents had been empty for nine months, since Matthew moved back to Honduras after being disconnected from his money order. She had not filed back with her bank the money sent to her son by her daughter-in-law, and she suspected that the wire transfer that carried $2,300 to her son for groceries had been counterfeited.
On Friday, she spoke with several immigration activists about the ordeal, and found out her own reimbursement funds had been frozen.
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