US Town Turned Into An Open-Air Prison
by Charles Lewis
Published on Saturday, August 16, 2008 by The National Post (Canada)
The town of
“This was not only a grievous injustice but a shame on the state of
On May 12, immigration officials swooped in to arrest 400 undocumented workers from
“The women are effectively prisoners,” said Father Paul Ouderkirk at St. Bridget’s Roman Catholic Church. “The difference between them and anybody who is in jail is that in jail the government pays for them, but if they’re on the streets we pay for them.
“What kind of a government makes prisoners of 43 mothers who all have children and then says, ‘You can’t work, you can’t leave and can’t stay?’ That boggles the imagination.”
A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the law does not provide for work authorization for illegals.
Since the raid, St. Bridget’s, with a staff of four, has raised $500,000 to pay for rent, clothing, food and other necessities of life. Donations have come from other faith groups and individuals who have read about the raid.
Fr. Ouderkirk, who has spent 50 years as a priest and had been in retirement for five years, was called back to active duty by the parish when the crisis hit. “It is the most difficult, most challenging situation I have ever faced. And yet, strangely, the incident that has been most strengthening of my faith. It shows there are a lot of compassionate people because if there weren’t, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing.”
He said the women and children were so terrified that they refused to go back to their apartments. They lived at the church during the first week after the raid.
Meanwhile, the men were taken to the National Cattle Congress building in
The men were all working at Agriprocessors, believed to be the largest kosher meat-packing plant in the world. Fr. Ouderkirk and others have said the plant was a disgrace that abused workers who had little understanding of their rights. He said conditions were dangerous, accidents were common and that workers were often forced to work extremely long hours. As well, he and others said the plant knew full well that many of their workers were undocumented.
The Iowa Labor Department’s documents show there have been a number of safety and health issues. And last week,
The company said that since the raid, it has voluntarily gone to a more sophisticated electronic system to verify the documents of workers. It also said it was waiving rent for women living in company-owned apartments and making regular food contributions.
The plant was founded more than 20 years ago and it brought to this small
The story of two such dissimilar cultures living side by side attracted the attention of
Prof. Bloom spent five years in the town doing research. He said it was inevitable that the plant would turn to undocumented workers because they were the only ones who would stay, and the locals were not interested in such gruesome work.
He also came to the conclusion that the Hasidic Jews did not make the best neighbours and were unwilling to co-operate with the rest of the town.
But Aaron Goldsmith disagrees with that assessment and thinks that many have made Agriprocessors the bogeyman in all this. Mr. Goldsmith, also a Hasidic Jew, does not work for Agriprocessors but runs his own business in the town. He came with his family 11 years ago from
He said at the beginning of the plant there was a clash of cultures, but much of that has settled down. He points to his own experience of being elected a city councilman, winning more than 60% of the vote. “And only 3% of the voters are Jews.”
He calls the company a good corporate citizen that did its best to document its workers and make sure conditions were acceptable. He said the plant was rated above average for the industry in terms of safety. The plant brought enormous prosperity to the region, Mr. Goldsmith said, which improved the lives of everyone. He said the plant is also helping the women and children with food baskets and other assistance.
Even Fr. Ouderkirk, a huge critic of the company, said that with people coming because of the plant, all sorts of new businesses opened up. “Business was booming and life was good.”
Mr. Goldsmith calls what the government did the height of hypocrisy. “They arbitrarily enforce a law when it’s a well-known truth that there are millions of illegal workers. They could step into
He said the raid looked like something out of the war in
Instead, he said, everyone got hurt: the families of the illegal workers, the townspeople who now have to deal with transient workers instead of family people, and the school board, which lost many students who were starting to integrate into the town.
After 40 years of being a priest, and two heart attacks and two open heart surgeries, Father Richard Gaul had hoped for a chance to reduce his stress levels. But after May 12 that idea went out the door. He said he understands that the people arrested were illegal, but he said they were also desperate.
“This was their last option. They would not have chosen this as their first option. They wanted to feed their families. Scripture tells us to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, give shelter to the shelterless. If you and your family were starving, what would you do?”
© 2008 The National Post
Dept. of Homeland Security has deported over 90,000 children under the age of 17 to
without a parent or caregiver Mexico
It goes without saying that the saddest element in the current enforcement of immigration laws is the apprehension, deportation or abandonment of children.
Stories surface every day of parents who were apprehended and fearing the same for their children, say nothing about their children at home. They hope a relative or neighbor will eventually realize their children are alone and will take care of them until they can be reunited.
According to a new report released this week in
But what is even more shocking and deserves further scrutiny from Congress and the American people is the documentation in the report that cites how in the first 7 months of the year the United States has deported 90,000 children to Mexico — children without their parents and who are alone.
The Mexican report revealed that 15 percent or 13,500 of these children, of all ages under 17, find themselves "parked" at the border. With no family and no way to take care of themselves. Some are either taken in by social service and religious agencies or are forced to live on the streets begging and trying with all their might to get back into the
The report further revealed that these child deportations are having a huge impact on those sectors of the country experiencing high migration and the Mexican government reveals it's ill-equipped to keep up with the growing number of children dumped by the
The report's authors are calling on the Department of Homeland Security and the
Deportations merely drop them off without ensuring their safety.
While this report highlights the shortfalls of the Mexican government in providing substantial care for these children upon their arrival, at the same time it does not exonerate the actions of the
For that reason, child deportations should be halted until a full and consistent repatriation program can be implemented where children are delivered to family members or reunited with family in the
By HENRY C. JACKSON | Associated Press Writer
2:03 PM CDT, August 15, 2008
DES MOINES, Iowa - The two highest ranking employees arrested in the aftermath of a massive Immigration raid at a Postville meatpacking plant argue their trials should be moved because of outsized media attention.
In a separate filing, one of the employees, Martin de la Rosa-Loera, a former floor supervisor at Agriprocessors, also asks that the judge assigned to the case recuse herself because she is not impartial.
Attorneys for Rosa-Loera and Juan Carlos Guerrero-Espinoza filed the claims this week in federal court. Both were supervisors at Agriprocessors, the nation's largest kosher meatpacking plant and the site of a May 12 Immigration raid that resulted in the arrest of nearly 400 workers.
U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Bob Teig said his office cannot comment on pending motions, but added that a response would be filed in court soon.
In the motion to change venue from a federal court in
"Particularly for the newspapers published in communities ravaged by floods and burdened with constant stories of personal loss, the media seemingly looked on the Postville raids ... as an opportunity to focus on an example of something happening in Iowa that would produce benefit for Iowans," according to the motion.
The motion also cites a handful of negative comments from newspaper Web sites and lists dozens of media mentions of the plant in area newspapers.
The request by Rosa-Loera's lawyers to remove the judge assigned to the case, Linda R. Reade, is based on Reade's role in a series of quickly completed trials for workers arrested during the raid.
After the raid, trials were held about 70 miles away at a fairgrounds in
According to the filing, "this Court's involvement in preparing for the proceedings, coupled with the swift and carefully choreographed nature of the guilty plea hearings, created the appearance that the Court was acting closely in concert with the government."
A phone message left with Reade's office was not immediately returned.
Both Guerrero-Espinoza and Rosa-Loera have been charged with encouraging illegal immigrants to reside in the
According to court filings, unnamed sources inside the Agriprocessors plant told federal officials that Guerrero-Espinoza worked in the human resource department and would bring them resident alien cards for new job applicants who were to be hired in the beef kill department, one of the areas he supervised.
The complaint against De La Rosa-Loera cites a number of unnamed sources who said he told them they needed new documents to work at the plant. According to the filing, when the sources got the new documents they reported that De La Rosa-Loera handed them back but allowed them to continue working at the plant.
Both Guerrero-Espinoza and De La Rosa-Loera reported to two plant operations managers, according to the filings.