Immigration raids in Iowa

1 06 2008

 

This is an Article from the New York Times regarding the immigration raids in Iowa

270 Illegal Immigrants Sent to Prison in Federal Push

WATERLOO, Iowa — In temporary courtrooms at a fairgrounds here, 260 illegal immigrants were sentenced this week to five months in prison for working at a meatpacking plant with false documents. Two others received lesser sentences, while another eight were convicted of a separate crime.

The prosecutions, which ended Friday, signal a sharp escalation in the Bush administration’s crackdown on illegal workers, with prosecutors bringing tough federal criminal charges against most of the immigrants arrested in a May 12 raid. Until now, unauthorized workers have generally been detained by immigration officials for civil violations and rapidly deported.

The convicted immigrants were among 389 workers detained at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in nearby Postville in a raid that federal officials called the largest criminal enforcement operation ever carried out by immigration authorities at a workplace.

“To my knowledge, the magnitude of these indictments is completely unprecedented,” said Juliet Stumpf, an immigration law professor at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore., who was formerly a senior civil rights lawyer at the Justice Department. “It’s the reliance on criminal process here as part of an immigration enforcement action that takes this out of the ordinary, a startling intensification of the criminalization of immigration law.”

 […] 

No charges have been brought against managers or owners at Agriprocessors, but there were indications that prosecutors were also preparing a case against the company. In pleading guilty, immigrants had to agree to cooperate with any investigation.

Chaim Abrahams, a representative of Agriprocessors, said in a statement that he could not comment about specific accusations but that the company was cooperating with the government.

Aaron Rubashkin, the owner of Agriprocessors, announced Friday that he had begun a search to replace his son Sholom as the chief executive of the company. Agriprocessors is the country’s largest producer of kosher meat, sold under brands like Aaron’s Best. The plant is in Postville, a farmland town about 70 miles northeast of Waterloo. Normally it employs about 800 workers, and in recent years the majority of them have come from rural Guatemala.

Since 2004, the plant has faced repeated sanctions for environmental and worker safety violations. It was the focus of a 2006 exposé in The Jewish Daily Forward and a commission of inquiry that year by Conservative Jewish leaders.

In Postville, workers from the plant, still feeling aftershocks from the raid, said conditions there were often harsh. In interviews, they said they were often required to work overtime and night shifts, sometimes up to 14 hours a day, but were not consistently paid for the overtime.

The workers said that supervisors and managers were well aware that the immigrants were working under false documents.

I will be waiting to see if the company that hired the illegal workers will be charged with anything other than a slap in the wrist. If the jobs are here people will continue to come, and if companies are allowed to continue the exploitation this cycle will never end.

full article here

 

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