Daily Alert

25 July 2008

The Victims of Postville

The victims of the Postville ICE raid are not the undocumented workers as both the articles below have distorted the story. The real victims are the American citizens whose personal identifying information was used to document these workers so they could be hired. Illegal entry into the US, stealing personal identifying information and flaunting labor laws should not be defended with sympathy. Please lefties, stop trying to turn this legal action into a union, right to organize fight. It isn't. In addition, for those lefties who are Jews, the claims you make against Agriprocessors should be tempered with benefit of the doubt. Please refrain from guilt by allegation and merely say, certain business practices should be reviewed for consistency with halacha and the practice we expect Jews to exercise. Alas, I know I am asking for too much but please, it is almost Av.

If I should be angry and resentful, I would say the secondary victims of this raid are the Kosher consumers whose food prices have risen as supply and thereby availability of meat and chicken has decreased.

I harp back on what Rabbi Pesach Lerner of Young Israel said in responding to Uri L'Tzedek's ridiculous call to boycott Agriprocessors, paraphrasing, {there are locations in the US which would not have had access to kosher meats if not for Agriprocessors}. That's nothing to take lightly and certainly buys the company some benefit of the doubt. Damage-Control Mode For Embattled Kosher Meat Giant

As far as the politics are concerned, the left is merely playing up to needed voting constituents, the unions and the perceived Hispanic vote which theoretically is more concerned about other Hispanics illegally entering the US to work than they are about upholding the rule of law which is a pretty cynical approach and one for which I would say is insulting.



A U.S. congressional subcommittee investigated the federal immigration raid at a kosher slaughterhouse. - JTA

Published: 07/25/2008

A U.S. congressional subcommittee investigated the federal immigration raid at a kosher slaughterhouse.

In a hearing Thursday, a subcommittee of the House of Representatives' Judiciary Committee considered whether law enforcement agencies guaranteed due process of law in its prosecution of 389 illegal workers at the Agriprocessors meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa, May 12.

The raid, said to be the largest single-site workplace raid in American history, led to a "fast-tracked" legal process in which some 300 Spanish-speaking defendants pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to document fraud and identity theft. The bulk were sentenced to five months in jail to be followed by deportation in a legal process completed in less than two weeks.

"I saw the Bill of Rights denied, and it all appeared to be within the framework of the law," Erik Camayd-Freixas, a certified translator who participated in the legal proceedings, told the committee.

David Leopold, the national vice president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, told the committee that defendents were faced with an impossible choice: They either could accept a government plea, serve five months in jail and then be deported, or they could plead not guilty, wait several months for trial and risk a two-year mandatory jail sentence. However that turned out, they ultimately would be deported anyway.

"Faced with the choice of five months in prison and deportation, or six months in prison waiting for a trial which could lead to two years in prison and deportation, what choice did the workers really have?" Leopold said. "The spectacle was a national disgrace."

House members grilled representatives of the Department of Justice and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the two federal agencies chiefly responsible for the raid and its legal aftermath.

Deborah Rhodes, a senior associate deputy attorney general, told the committee that defendants were permitted to meet with experienced counsel, were given seven days to consider their legal options and that measures were taken to ensure that the charges were understood before the guilty plea was accepted.

"While the sheer number of illegal aliens in this unusual case presented challenges that we do not often face," Rhodes said, "we believe that the defendants’ constitutional rights were carefully protected and exercised throughout the operation and that each defendant was treated fairly and with respect and dignity."

A standing room-only crowd was on hand when the hearing opened. It was followed by a news conference that included Father Paul Ouderkirk, a Postville priest who has ministered to many of those affected by the raid, and Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.


Liberal Jewish Groups To Rally At Postville Plant - The Jewish Week (Weak).

JTA

An interfaith coalition is planning to demonstrate next week in Postville, Iowa, in support of justice for workers and comprehensive immigration reform.

Conceived by Jewish Community Action, a Minnesota-based social justice group, the rally comes in response to allegations of worker mistreatment at Agriprocessors, the largest kosher meat producer in the United States.

The rally, scheduled for July 27, will follow by one day a visit to Postville by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The group, led by U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), will meet with the families of plant workers, as well as community organizers and local religious leaders.

“An immigration system that is predicated on fear tactics and piecemeal, deportation-only policies profoundly worsens our immigration crisis by creating broken
homes and tearing the fabric of our society,” Gutierrez said. “It is my sincere hope that in bringing the stories of the parents, children and workers of Postville back to Congress, our lawmakers will see the very real consequences of punitive actions in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform.”

Both the congressional visit and the rally promise to keep the spotlight on Agriprocessors, whose Postville facility was the target of a massive immigration raid on May 12.

In the wake of the raid, the plant’s workers claimed, among other allegations, that they were underpaid and made to suffer an atmosphere of rampant sexual harassment. Company officials have denied the charges.

Among the groups supporting the rally are the Chicago-based Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Jewish Labor Committee and Workmen’s Circle. Funds for transportation were provided by Mazon, a Jewish hunger relief group.

“There are two targets here,” Jane Ramsey, the executive director of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, told JTA. “One is a message to the government for comprehensive immigration reform on the one hand, and secondly to Agriprocessors for the permanent implementation of livable wages, health care benefits and worker safety.”

The plant’s purchase in 1987 by the Brooklyn butcher Aaron Rubashkin injected a much-needed dose of economic vitality into Postville, which was a struggling farm community. With a workforce of approximately 1,000, Agriprocessors was said to be the largest employer in northern Iowa.

The arrest of nearly half its employees in the raid has significantly cut the plant’s production.
Agriprocessors is hardly alone. According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, 4,940 workplace arrests were made in the 2007 fiscal year, up from 510 in 2002. As of May, the agency has made 3,750 arrests this year.

Critics say such arrests are devastating to workers and their families and can have crippling effects on communities. Jewish Community Action raised $10,000 for Postville families, according to its executive director, Vic Rosenthal. The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs has delivered another $5,000.

“We think that this was a very poorly conceived action by ICE that hurt people and didn’t bring any further safety to you and me,” Ramsey said. “Who did this help? They swept into a little town of 2,500 that has now been devastated, that has a just-opened playground and now there are no children for that playground.”

Steven Steinlight, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Immigration Study and a leading critic of the mainstream Jewish position on immigration, says such stories are sad on a human level but are not a basis for making policy.

“I can’t get bleary-eyed about these people,” Steinlight said. “They’re here in violation of federal immigration law. You don’t know if these people are from Mexico or from al Qaeda. They have engaged in identity theft. They have engaged in felonies. These are not minor issues. I don’t consider the violation of America’s sovereignty to be a minor issue.”

While Steinlight defends the raid as a legitimate exercise in law enforcement, he shares the sense of outrage over allegations of worker mistreatment even as he opposes the call for a path to legalization for Postville workers.

“The reason they’re hired is because they are exploitable,” Steinlight said. “And if they were legalized, they wouldn’t be any better off.”

Chaim Abrahams, an Agriprocessors representative, said the company is committed to abiding by all state and federal laws.

“Mr. Steinlight has apparently joined the chorus of those who accept the allegations and several newspaper accounts as fact,” Abrahams said. “Agriprocessors will have no further comment on those allegations, as they are part of an ongoing investigation. It merely urges all fair-minded people to reserve judgment until this investigation process has run its course.”

The demonstration is scheduled to begin with an interfaith service at St. Bridget’s, the Catholic church that has taken the lead in providing relief to immigrant families. It will be followed by a march through town to the plant and then back to the church for a rally. Organizers expect about 1,000 people to attend.

“We think that Jews as consumers of kosher food need to understand the importance of who is producing the food and how they get treated, how they get paid,” Rosenthal said. “We really want to energize the Jewish community to think much more clearly about the role they play as consumers.”

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