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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Palabra Final > Immigration > Homeland Security ignored Iowa officials’ pleas to postpone Postville raid until criminal investigation of plant management completed

Homeland Security ignored Iowa officials’ pleas to postpone Postville raid until criminal investigation of plant management completed

LatinaLista — In Washington, D.C. tomorrow, there will be a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor, Subcommittee on Workforce Protections to discuss the impact of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids on children and what can possibly be done to prevent the ensuing trauma experienced by these children.
One of the raids that will be used as an example is the recent raid in Postville, Iowa. Deemed the largest raid in the country, by ICE officials, the aftershocks of the raid have been rattling the community ever since, and with good reason.

Postville detainees being led to detention.
(Source: wcfcourier.com)

As one Lutheran minister explained, Postville is a town of less than 3,000 people — Mexicans, Anglos, Jewish, Guatemalans, etc. Unlike big cities, each ethnic group doesn’t have an area of town designated their part of town — they all live together. It’s the kind of assimilation that would make the harshest critic of Spanish-speaking immigrants proud.
But for exactly that reason, the community as a whole is reeling from the raid. As the minister said, the raid basically took one-third of the community’s population. That kind of loss is devastating for the families, the children and the local economy.
Yet, a story that is slowly surfacing, and which is on par in its appalling nature as the raid’s impact on the children, is the fact that ICE disrupted a state investigation into an important child labor violations investigation at the Agriprocessors plant.
An investigation that is now dead.


It seems that Agriprocessors is hardly the benevolent employer. Come to find out that Agriprocessors has a record of “grotesquely” abusing, exploiting and putting the health and safety of their workforce at risk.
Among those abuses was the hiring of kids to work in the plant. Earlier, Latina Lista reported that several juveniles were arrested among the workers during the worksite raid. What we didn’t know at the time was just how young some of these workers were.
It is being reported that some were as young as 13-years-old. It’s also come to light that management from the plant would routinely try and recruit kids from the town’s middle school to work in the plant.
In fact, their record for exploiting children and abusing their immigrant labor force was so widely known that state authorities were working with some of the undocumented immigrants to expose Agriprocessors’ management.
Even the United Food and Commercial Workers Union got involved with the investigation. They wrote to ICE to request that an immigration enforcement action not take place, citing fears that it would undercut the enforcement of labor laws intended to protect all of the workers at the plant.
ICE ignored that request. Hardly surprising from an agency whose director is trying to ignore 30 environmental laws to build a border fence.
But it is surprising because isn’t the whole purpose of these immigration raids, besides rounding up undocumented immigrants, is to fine, arrest and expose those employers who not only take advantage of undocumented labor but also abuse and exploit them?
So far, with all the hundreds of employees that ICE has arrested in these raids, only 17 employers have been fined. The management at Agriprocessors were back the next day hiring and conducting business as usual. They must feel pretty untouchable when it comes to how they treat their employees, especially since anyone who could have provided evidence against them were detained by ICE and are now in deportation proceedings.
A company that is brazen enough to openly violate child labor practices and abuse their employees isn’t going to blink an eye in hiring further undocumented immigrants and treating them any way they want to.
For a company whose reputation was known to be so abusive that state officials, along with a worker’s union, AND undocumented immigrant workers were willing to work together to put a halt to this kind of worker abuse says a lot about the magnitude of the offenses.
That ICE would totally disregard this request just to STAGE an intimidating presence demands a review of ICE’s actions, their authority and their motivation in carrying out worksite raids.
What would have been the difference had they waited until after the investigation?
We’ll never know but one thing is certain — there would have been one less company out there not just exploiting immigrant labor and feeding off the desperation of a people who only want to work, and so will submit themselves to inhumane conditions, but one less company that will never forget that all workers, undocumented or not, have rights too.
Update: It seems ICE is feeling the heat for disrupting the state investigation. The Des Moines Register reports this afternoon:

Nearly 70 workers arrested in last week’s Postville meatpacking raid pleaded guilty Monday to a less severe fraud charge in exchange for a 5-month jail sentence followed by an immediate plane ride out of the U.S.
The deal also opens the possibility that many of the workers could testify against their employer, Agriprocessors, Inc., should charges against managers arise. At least 20 more hearings were scheduled later Monday evening, after press time, to confirm similar plea bargains in U.S. District Court.
In exchange, prosecutors dropped more serious identity-theft charges which would have carried a mandatory 2-year minimum prison sentence.
“I know you came to this country to work hard and support your families,” U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett told one group. “Unfortunately, the laws of the U.S.A. say that what you did was illegal. But I want on behalf of our courts to wish you the best of luck.”

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Comment(9)

  • Avatar
    laura
    May 20, 2008 at 11:57 am

    This behavior of ICE is the same as when they raided companies, at management’s request, whose workers were trying to unionize.
    Like the rest of the Republicans’ (and some Democrats’) immigration policies, the goal of these raids is to frighten Latino communities so that they will accept any kind of exploitation. The goal is to have a labor force to which they can do anything, including hire children who should be going to school.
    Immigrant communities all over the country need to stand up against these raids. But not just immigrant communities.
    Obviously this is bad for American workers, because it prevents enforcement of workplace safety and bargaining for higher wages. That is why many unions are supporting undocumented immigrants’ rights and comprehensive immigration reform. Non-unionized Americans should think about this too.

  • Avatar
    Challis
    May 20, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    WOW, certianly-from the information provided in this article- ICE seems to have acted hastily without regard to the greater good. but that can sometimes be the norm with different governmental institutions– FBI vs. state and local police comes to mind.
    The last quote from the District Judge really gave me the warm and fuzzies. Yes, the laws must be upheld, but his kind words show a personal side to the often harsh governmental system.
    it reminds me of a saying my Grandma is fond of, “keep your words soft and sweet, just in case you have to eat them.”
    something that we should heed in our lives and in these blog conversations.

  • Avatar
    maya
    May 20, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Where are all the people defending this country of laws now?

  • Avatar
    EYES OF TEXAS
    May 20, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    Yes, ICE did jump the gun on this raid most likely to a communication break down. That is way it would be better if all law enforcement, from city to federal, were all operating on the same wavelength. That way raids could be better coordinated and more effective.
    Let us not forget these people were working using stolen or false IDs or stolen or false SS numbers. They could really screw up an American citizens life by using such documentation. They are only here to work and put food on their families table, while all along thumbing their noses at our laws with no reguard to the burden they may be placing on other people.

  • Avatar
    laura
    May 20, 2008 at 7:19 pm

    Dear Marisa,
    it turns out this raid really had the purpose of busting a union.
    Please see the Des Moines Register website at http://www.desmoinesregister.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080513/NEWS/805130406
    Just a quote from their story: “The union had been trying to organize the plant’s nonunion workers for collective-bargaining purposes, said Jill Cashen, a UFCW spokeswoman in Washington, D.C. Union leaders had alerted state and federal labor officials to allegations Agriprocessors was exploiting underage workers and paying them off the books, she said Monday.
    Now that hundreds of Agriprocessors employees have been taken into custody, “how can justice ever be served on these exploitation issues?” Cashen asked
    Lauritsen said employers at other workplaces where his union had been organizing have abused ICE’s actions not only to intimidate employees before a National Labor Relations Board election, but also to blame the union for immigration actions.”
    ICE is there to protect American corporations from unions.
    There are more stories, both in the Des Moines Register and in national media, on how the owner of the meat processing plant is a donor to the Republican Party. Of course he is not being prosecuted.
    Another quote:
    “Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) said enforcement efforts against corporations that commit immigration violations have “plummeted” under the Bush administration.”
    This is from “After the Postville Raid – Immigration Raid Jars a Small Town. Critics Say Employers Should Be Targeted
    By Spencer S. Hsu
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, May 18, 2008; A01, at http://dreamacttexas.blogspot.com/2008/05/after-postville-raid.html

  • Avatar
    Frank
    May 20, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    “Immigrant” communities? lol

  • Avatar
    Horace
    May 21, 2008 at 5:45 am

    Right, Laura, the owners were trying to bust the union all-the-while calling attention to their meth lab and making them subject to scrutiny as deliberate employers of illegal immigrants. So clever, I would never have thought of such a strategy myself. I concede to such wisdom. Another win for the tin foil hat crowd.

  • Avatar
    Nazi-Fascist-Racist
    September 17, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    This is yourNazi-Facist-Racist writing to you from the good old USA.
    This is the name given to me by a Chubby (Gordo) hispanic at a townhall meeting. He was about 18 years old. Other when asked why they called us this name they said because in meetings with groups like LaRaza. They were told to call senior American Citizens (Asian, Whites, Hispanic, Black, Men and Woman) this name.
    I was alive when My German/Irish Uncles were tail gunners in B-17’s going over German. How to I explain the this brainwashed youngerster his critical thinking was at 3rd grade leve. When did we start getting immigrants both legal and illegal thinking this way.
    Do you know illegal aliens kill 25 people a day in the USA–Ever meet a parent who lost a kid to a Illegal Alien with several DUI’s.
    Who dragged the illegal aliens, across the US border causing them to
    break
    Title 8
    Section 125 of the
    Borders laws and all those who help them also breaking the same law.
    Why do Hispanics as a group have a huge rate of
    breaking United States Laws?? Why are they bringing MS-13 gangs all across the country.
    WHY a hundred other questions. I have a hispanic daughter in law born and raised in this country–but having grown up in a hispanic community when does she not, with many hispanics, understand we are a soverign country and must control our borders instead of being turned into a 3rd world county as is being allowed now.
    But then I have been labeled as a Nazi-Fascist-Racist by the hispanics and a patriot by the Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Asians –men and women who
    stand beside me.
    Respectfully,
    Nazi-Facist-Racist

  • Avatar
    Concerned about the Latino work force!
    February 18, 2009 at 8:42 am

    I have seen while working for Stuart Paves at SMAP MANUFACTURING located at 15240 Dixi Highway in harvey Illinois the exploiting of american Latinos in the work place.I saw the plant manager go up to a latino mother and daughter working side by side and haveing trouble with the atique and outdated machinery and actually call the daughter a whore,the mother backhanded him very quickly and for good reason.So let me ask why was the treatment called for?This company also allowed a latino father to opperate a forklift with out proper training and certification wich resulted in his death,and they only gave 2 weeks pay to the mother and child for their loss in the time of need. Now how heartless is that!Manager Annette Patierno also goes into the plant area after a bad night at the bar and makes herself feel good by disrespecting and talking down to latino workers,what she does not understand is most of them understand every word she is saying.This company needs to be brought out so everyone can see their opperation and any one that chooses to use them for their manufacturing need need to be held accountable also.American latinos Lets unite together and stop corporations from treating the backbone of this country with disrespect.Lets Unite!

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