Tag Archives: iowa

Raid Victims Awarded Visas

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Two days after the one-year anniversary of the Postville raid, 20 workers were awarded work visas under a law that protects crime victims. From the Des Moines Register:

“A government entity has found, indeed, that these women and children have been subjected to extreme emotional or physical harm by Agriprocessors,” Parras-Konrad said. “These people have been exploited, have been assaulted, have been humiliated, have been verbally and emotionally abused by this employer.”

The fact that at least 20 people were eligible to for relief in these cases clearly demonstrates that there were many others who should have seen their day in court and who were, instead, pressured into pleading guilty and promptly deported. Let’s hope the new ID theft decision and these visas mark a change in policy.

Postville: Leaders Urging for an end to the Raids, while some want to perpetuate the cycle

More than 6 months after the devastating ICE raid in Postville, Iowa, the tiny town is still a buzzing epicenter of the immigration debate.

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Last Wednesday, religious leaders gathered to urge officials from both sides of the aisle in Washington to visit the town and see they aftermath of the tragedy themselves. They also called for an end to the violent ICE raids that have been tearing apart families and destroying communities all across the country.

“Postville is an incredible example of the aftermath and effects” of the irreparable damage an immigration raid can do to a town, he said. The U.S. senators from Iowa, Tom Harkin…

The Rev. David Vasquez was less charitable about the federal actions. The Luther College campus pastor called Postville “the whipping boy” of the government’s “misguided immigration policies,” with a raid set up to serve as an example to other industries that employ immigrants.

Meanwhile, it seems as though some officials in Iowa are continuing to cover their eyes to the realities of the current immigration system. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) praised the raid in Postville, calling it a “step in the right direction” for immigration policy in the United States.

Jeff Tilson police chief of Vinton, a small Iowa town, has said that he will work to ensure that the town doesn’t become “another Postville”. But his tactics are completely ignoring the realities of the broken system.

“The laws on the books work just fine,” Tilson [said]. “We just have to enforce them. I always tell people that I cannot create an environment where crime can’t exist, but I can try to create one where crime won’t exist. We have taken a pretty aggressive stand on illegal immigration.”

It looks like Tilson will be cracking down on immigrants in his small town – a move that is sure to push them even further into the shadows. I’m not sure which policies he’s looking at, but the laws on the books do NOT work just fine, they are outdated, unrealistic and costly (for both communities and the immigrants targeted).

It is time that people woke up to the reality of the current system. We have to find sensible solutions, that include a reform at the Federal level. Until then, these folks will just be perpetuating the cycle of injustice, pain and alienation facing immigrants in the United States today.

Even when its about uniting, ICE continues to divide

Today is Election Day. A day when unprecented numbers of new voters and new Americans are participating directly in democracy. A day where our Nation unites around one idea – get out and VOTE! But, as usual, ICE proves to be out of step and morally bankrupt.

Today, of all days, ICE followed up on May’s horrifying raid of Agriprocessors in Postville Iowa. So far, reports are only confirming one arrests, but the message is clear – ICE is not down with Postville.

Agriprocessors was the site of one of the largest single-site immigration raids in May. Federal agents detained 389 illegal immigrant workers in an investigation that spurred the national debate over immigration and led to criminal charges against a top executive.

One woman who arrived at the church said agents arrested her husband at the plant, said the Rev. Steve Brackett. Brackett said Postville’s streets emptied quickly as word spread that federal agents had arrived.

“We only have one confirmed report of an arrest right now,” Brackett said. “The assumption is, they’re here for additional people.”

Hasn’t this community suffered enough? Doesn’t the government have a better message to send on Election Day? Our next administration will be inhereting the burden of some serious damage control. First and foremost, stop destroying our communities. Stop the raids.

An advocate for immigration reform criticized the federal action and its timing.

“It’s appalling that the federal agents chose today, Election Day, to spread fear amongst the residents of Postville,” said Marissa Graciosa, director of the Fair Immigration Reform Movement.

Erica Palmer, a community organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, called the action “inhumane and destructive to our community fabric.”

Raids at What Cost?

Its not as though we need more reasons to condemn the immigration raids that have been tearing apart communities, denying due process and separating families. But, Frank Sharry has written a very enlightening article at the Huffington Post about the financial costs of the raids.

Remember the immigration raid at the Agriprocessors Inc. meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, back in May? According to today’s Des Moines Register, the raid set taxpayers back $5.2 million. According to the newspaper, “That means it has cost taxpayers an average of $13,396 for each of the 389 illegal immigrants taken into custody.”

Keep in mind that the $5.2 million – disclosed through a Freedom of Information Act request with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ‑ is only what ICE spent. That doesn’t include the cost of criminal trials against the workers charged with ID crimes, indigent defense, and prison. According to an accompanying editorial in the Des Moines Register, “Prison costs alone ran $590,000 a month as of mid-summer.”

So let’s do the math, shall we? If it cost $13,396 to arrest each undocumented worker in the United States, and estimates are that there are at least 11.5 million people who fit that definition, then you, I, and the rest of American taxpayers could be looking at forking over $154 billion to ICE alone.

How much more of this are we going to have to endure? Without Just and Humane immigration reform, our government will not only continue its militant tactics against immigrants, but it will continue to fund its terror with our taxpayer money. And at this point in our history, we can afford either of the two.

Postville: 5 Months Later

Today, CNN ran its first of two articles discussing immigration in “Middle America”. Today’s installment catches up with the town of Postville, Iowa, five months after what was the largest immigration raid in history.

It’s a town that’s been turned “topsy turvy,” Mayor Bob Penrod says, since hundreds of heavily armed federal immigration agents swooped in a few months ago and raided its main employer, Agriprocessors, the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant.

“It makes a person feel kind of angry,” Penrod says. “It’s been nothing but a freaky nightmare since May.”

Since the raid in Postville, large-scale ICE raids have become more frequent. In August more than 600 immigrants were arrested in Laurel, Mississippi and just last week more than 300 were arrested in Greenville, South Carolina.

In Postville, CNN visited St. Bridget’s Catholic Church:

 …whose pastor, Father Lloyd Paul Ouderkirk, is both soft-spoken and outspoken. It is his church that became a refuge for the town’s immigrants the day of the raid and the weeks afterward.

“They had attacked this town with a military-style raid — brought in 900 immigration police to arrest 389 people. I mean, what is that other than a military raid on this town?” he says.

Ouderkirk scans his church now, the sun beaming through stained-glass windows. “Can you just imagine all these pews here full of people, sleeping 300-400 people a night?”

Many residents in Postville are still reeling from the affects of the raid. The town’s crime rate has gone up, local businesses are hurting and tensions are running high.

Residents feel like the town was “made an example of”. One resident, Brian Gravel, the principal of Postville High School noted that, “Picking on a town of 2,500 people in northeast Iowa is not my idea of a naturalization or immigration policy.” Postville, like so many other communities torn apart by ICE have become symbolic sacrifices, a way for the current administration to seem like it is “doing something” about immigration. But if Postville is any indication, the raids are acheiving little except the destruction of communities, families and businesses.

Largest Workplace Raid in History – Laurel, Mississippi

Last Monday, Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided Howard Industries in Laurel, MS, arresting nearly 600 unauthorized immigrant workers.

The raid surpassed May’s raid in Postville Iowa as the largest workplace raid in history, and it continues the increasingly aggressive enforcement only policy of the current Bush administration.

Media coverage of the raid was sparse, since it coincided with the first night of the DNC and Michelle Obama’s powerful appearance. However, the little attention given to the raid worked to hype up racial and non-union/union worker tentions.

From the LA Times:

It was the black co-workers who clapped and cheered, Pena said, as she and hundreds of other Latino immigrant laborers were arrested and hauled away.

“They said we took their jobs, but I was working from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” said [Fabiola] Pena, 21, a day after the raid last week that resulted in the arrest of nearly 600 suspected illegal immigrants. “I didn’t see them working like us.”

And from the Washington Post:

One worker caught in Monday’s sweep at the Howard Industries transformer plant said fellow workers applauded as immigrants were taken into custody. Federal officials said a tip from a union member prompted them to start investigating several years ago.

However, there are reports coming out of Mississippi that the raid was politically and financially motivated. Not only does Howard Industries have close ties to the MS state government, but there was a growing coalition of workers pushing for better conditions and union contracts with the company.

There is a great analysis of this at New American Media:

Jim Evans, a national AFL-CIO staff member in Mississippi and a leading member of the state legislature’s Black Caucus, said he believed “this raid is an effort to drive immigrants out of Mississippi. It is also an attempt to drive a wedge between immigrants, African Americans, white people and unions – all those who want political change here.” Patricia Ice, attorney for the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance (MIRA), agreed that “this is political. They want a mass exodus of immigrants out of the state, the kind we’ve seen in Arizona and Oklahoma. The political establishment here is threatened by Mississippi’s changing demographics, and what the electorate might look like in 20 years.”

Basically, unions were working to increase their immigrant membership, in order to ensure fair pay and good conditions for all Howard employees. This is when the raid occurred.

I have posted before about the idea of raids as union-busting efforts, and this seems to be no different.

Additionally, there were multiple financial reasons for going after Howard Industries. For more on this analysis, check out this blog post at Immigration talk with a Mexican American. The post connects the dots between the current Bush Administration, Howard Industries (whose CEO is a big-time GOP contributor), and GEO Corp (who runs the Jena, LA detention center where detainees are currently being held).

The media should start covering the real story behind these raids. The Bush administration is denying due process and basic human decency to thousands of workers, while big business and government continue to profit both financially and politically.

For more on this perspective check out this post at VivirLatino.

Mr. President, Stop your Raids on our Communities

Last month, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus visited Postville, Iowa to investigate the effects of the immigration raid that occurred in May. Luis Gutierrez (D – Ill.) announced his plans to visit the small town during the House sub-committee hearing that I covered a few weeks ago.

Now, after the visit, Gutierrez and Joe Baca (D – Calif.) have written an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, publicly calling on President Bush to stop the ICE raids across the country.

The op-ed is powerful proof that even elected officials understand ICE raids are not only inhumane and unjust, but that they are being used as a political tool, to gain points with the nativist constituency, rather than a real solution to fix our immigration system.

You should read the full piece, but here is a noteworthy excerpt:

There is no other reasonable response than to demand that Bush remember his words of welcome and his commitment to law, by placing a moratorium on Immigration raids until we have passed effective, comprehensive reform. The nation that we love, respect and serve is better than this. Bush stood before the American people and proclaimed:

“An Immigration reform bill needs to be comprehensive, because all elements of this problem must be addressed together, or none of them will be solved at all.”

But headline-grabbing tactics like the Postville raid had nothing to do with comprehensive reform. Bush has forgotten his promise.

No one benefits when taxpayers pay $590,000 a month to jail Postville’s detainees. As a society, we fail when our factories are less safe, when the perpetrators go uncharged or when our laws remove infants from nursing mothers and create broken homes for U.S. citizen children.

We can all agree that we need Immigration reform that is tough on enforcement. However, any system which fails to respect the enormous contributions immigrants make to our workforce, that fails to reflect our proud history of welcoming those who seek a better life and that fails to protect all U.S. workers and our homeland, fails the American people.

The Postville raid failed our nation on all three of those levels. Any future raid would be equally and profoundly inexcusable and cause yet another avoidable blight on our history.

Officials Defend “How-to” Manual Uncovered by ACLU

From the Chicago Tribune

The U.S. attorneys office and a federal judge are defending the use of documents (including the “how-to” manual I discussed last week) that were given to attorneys as well as workers arrested in the larget immigration raid in history, in Postville, Iowa.

Chief Magistrate Judge Paul A. Zoss for the Northern District of Iowa defended the script, saying that it was standard procedure to provide attorneys with scripts for routine hearings and the practice was not only linked to immigration cases, but to criminal cases as well.

Bob Teig, assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Iowa said, “”The documents helped ensure fairness, understanding, and constitutional rights were of paramount importance throughout the proceedings.  They did nothing to push people into pleading guilty; quite the opposite is true.”

However, among the documents are waivers — printed in English and Spanish — that bar workers from pursuing further legal claims or procedures. Others waive the legal right to a grand jury to determine criminal charges.

One waiver read, “I have been advised that I have the right to insist that any felony charge brought against me in federal court first be presented to a U.S. Grand Jury … I would like to waive that right, and agree to be prosecuted under information filed against me in this case by the United States Attorney.”

I’m not exactly sure how these waivers fit into Teig’s idea of ensuring fairness, understanding and constitutional rights.

ACLU Finds Government Manual on How to Expedite Guilty Please from Undocumented Migrants

Recently, Dr. Eric Camayd-Frexais wrote a report exposing the flaws and injustices involved in the legal proceedings following May’s immigration raid in Postville, Iowa. The report was so damning and exposed so many injustices that a committee hearing in the House of Representative was recently held, followed by the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus visiting Postville.

During the committee proceedings on Capitol Hill, a representative from the Department of Justice repeated numerous times that the decision to charge the immigrants with a criminal offense was made by the “career prosecutors in Iowa”.

As it turns out, however, all of the injustices witnessed by Dr. Camayd-Frexais and the decision to charge the immigrants with the criminal “aggravated ID theft” were pre-determined by the goverment.

Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union were able to get a hold of the government “manual” that was issued to defense lawyers representing the undocumented immigrant workers apprehended and prosecuted in Postville.

As Dr. Camayd-Freixas so expertly noted, there was purposeful disregard for the judicial process. What the federal translator didn’t realize was that it was all scripted. The ACLU has uncovered a government “how-to” manual regarding the prosecution and processing of undocumented migrants.

The manual contained “prepackaged scripts for plea and sentencing hearings as well as documents providing for guilty pleas and waivers of rights that were used to push the more than 300 Postville workers through mass criminal proceedings as quickly as possible.”

According to the ACLU analysis of the manual:

The government “manual” provided for the workers to waive all their legal rights and in the overwhelming majority of cases, to plead guilty to charges of falsely using identity documents for employment. It was an important tool used to rush defendants through the criminal justice and immigration systems without a criminal trial or immigration proceedings. The plea forms in the “manual” included a requirement barring immigrants from pursuing any legal claims or procedures under the immigration laws.

The revelation of this manual implies that the same “code of conduct” is being applied to apprehended undocumented immigrants in makeshift courts across the country in order to expedite their removal.

The “Jungle” Again

Check out the great op-ed in the NY Times today.

An excerpt:

The harsh prosecution at Postville is an odd and cruel shift for the Bush administration, which for years had voiced compassion for exploited workers and insisted that immigration had to be fixed comprehensively or not at all.

Now it has abandoned mercy and proportionality. It has devised new and harsher traps, as in Postville, to prosecute the weak and the poor. It has increased the fear and desperation of workers who are irresistible to bottom-feeding businesses precisely because they are fearful and desperate. By treating illegal low-wage workers as a de facto criminal class, the government is trying to inflate the menace they pose to a level that justifies its rabid efforts to capture and punish them. That is a fraudulent exercise, and a national disgrace.