The Children of Postville, Iowa
But these migrants were bringing down wages for U.S. citizens you say? The United Food and Commercial workers were actually in the process of trying to unionize people at the plant. There was also government investigation of labor law violations under way which probably would have resulted in officials at Agriprocessors being charged.
But this fight isn't about statistics, or the law. This is a cultural war. This is attrition through enforcement. Nativists want migrants to suffer and the U.S. government is carrying out their wishes. That's why I ask any nativist reading this to look into the faces of the children above. These children have done nothing to deserve the suffering that you wish upon them. The only sin their parents committed was to pursue happiness in a nation that refuses to recognize their humanity.
Read this from the Washington Post:
Half of the school system's 600 students were absent Tuesday, including 90 percent of Hispanic children, because their parents were arrested or in hiding.As is always the case, most of these 300 now missing students were probably U.S. citizens. These children are not going away. They will grow up and remember the terror that the U.S. government put them through. Terror that other U.S. citizens stood by and watched.Spencer S. Hsu - Washington Post (18 May 2008)
Kurt Ulrich's article in the Chicago Tribune actually spoke the most to me after the Iowa raids. There are no statistics, it doesn't even really state a position. It just describes the scene at Electric Park Ballroom in Waterloo, Iowa, where migrants are being processed.
At the Electric Park Ballroom in Waterloo, Iowa, on a recent May day the only dancing being done was what you might call the "shackle shuffle." Those doing the shuffle are detainees of the U.S. government, all workers at a kosher meat processing plant in nearby Postville. Charged by the feds with either: 1) "making false representations about Social Security numbers," 2) "aggravated identity theft" or both, 390 workers were arrested. More arrests are promised, as 697 criminal complaints and arrest warrants have been issued thus far.
The latest, and reportedly largest ever, Immigration sweep was undertaken this week by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency here in Iowa, of all places. It seems that the good folks who own and operate AgriProcessors in Postville have been routinely and systematically hiring illegal immigrants to work in their plant. In the time I spent watching prisoners being "processed," I didn't see a single owner or representative of the company. My guess is their wing-tipped lawyers will claim they didn't know that half their workforce was here illegally.
Dark and bleak, the ballroom is set up as a makeshift courtroom, complete with seating in the back for the public and the curious. Detainees are being housed nearby in the large building on the grounds of the National Cattle Congress. Judges preside from the center of the dance floor, robed and imperial. The place is depressing, smelling of decades of cheap beer, cheaper cigarettes, and unbridled lust. Flaglike, a red, white and blue Bud Light sign hangs in a window on the west side.
Wrists manacled in front, ankles shackled, detainees shuffle in 10 at a time. Heads down, mostly, they are fitted with plastic headsets for translation purposes and then seated facing the judge. Federal Judge Linda Reade is respectful, almost pleasant, not an easy task in an environment filled with government men and women with 9 mm handguns on their hips. The detainees seem to appreciate her demeanor. Handed a copy of the complaint against them, they soon hear the standard litany from Judge Reade: "You have the right to remain silent . . . and anything you say can and will likely be used against you." At those words three detainees in one group, Aurelio Hernandez-Lopez, Silvestre Pena-Chavez and Antonio Perez, look up, but express zero emotion. No translation needed. Most of them are young men and they seem to know that all they can do is sit silently as they watch their lives slide from view.
Back in tiny Postville, others are likely packing, or already gone, gone to wherever it is folks go who don't want to be found. Clearly many thought Iowa was that place. Electric Park Ballroom is a place where young Iowans have been showing up for decades, a place for live music. It's the kind of place your mother warns you about, where evangelicals say the windows are shaded to cover the sin. But it's not the worst place in town, so generally it's OK. Oh sure, a few police calls and bloodied noses in the parking lot over the years, but you get that on warm testosterone-laden nights in towns where there isn't much to do.
Holding thick files, lawyers in charcoal suits sit at tables, keeping watch over their flocks of 10. Multiple burly ICE agents border collie the detainees in and out, seldom speaking, pointing mostly. Ten more shuffle in, followed by 10 more, and 10 more. It seems never-ending.
None of the manacled shufflers is from anywhere like oh, say Denmark or Canada. They come from places like Guatemala and Mexico, here in search of the Promised Land.
There are questions to be asked here but I fear the answers, so I don't ask, content to squirm in a sort of rolling ambivalence about our Immigration policies.
Ancient, dust-covered 12-inch public address speakers hang from the ceiling in the half-light of the old ballroom. I half expect to hear the plaintive voice of Roy Orbison singing something fitting, like "Running Scared," or maybe Johnny Cash singing the blues about being incarcerated in a place called Folsom Prison. Cash captured it nicely when he sang, "I bet there's rich folks eating in a fancy dining car. They're probably drinkin' coffee and smoking big cigars. Well, I know I had it coming, I know I can't be free."Kurt Ulrich - Chicago Tribune (16 May 2008)
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It looks like someone finally got Immigration and Custom's Enforcement to show the U.S. public their balance sheet. Through a freedom of information request, the Des Moines Register was able to find out that the cost for the Postville raid... Read More