Postville Iowa: A First-Hand Account
This is the story of those migrants swept of in the Postville Iowa immigration raid as told by one of the interpreters. The article, at the New York Times, is titled "An Interpreter Speaking Up for Migrants" and only serves to remind us of the injustices against those simply trying to work and survive. When I read a story about migrants being detained and unjustly prosecuted I think of what the United States is supposed to represent and stand for. We like to think this is the “land of the free, home of the brave” and place where “liberty and justice for all” is not just a slogan for a dime store t-shirt. The truth is many that come here, through whatever means, see the country the same way so it’s hard to read about people being shackled and dragged through court only to end up in prison in this land where “all men are created equal.”
From Erik Camayd-Freixas’s video on the NY Times website:
What was striking was to see these people enter – and basically you know they’re shackled at their feet, at their wrists and their wrists are shackled to their waste with chains. So they can only take a few little steps, short little steps and the chains are dragging on the floor so it makes a terrible impression. Then you see that they are all about five feet tall and you start – when they start calling their names you start recognizing Mayan names – last names. So there was a real racial contrast between the detainees in chains and the rest of the court with its grandeur. They were being charged with Social Security fraud, using a false Social Security number, but what struck me was that they were also being charged with aggravated identity theft and that just seemed awkward. It didn’t fit.
While the migrants caught up in the Postville raid begged for deportation ICE forced them into pleading guilty for charges they did not understand. Many of these migrants had no way of understanding what law they had broken. Many understood they were here without permission, but that's not what they were on trial for.
The great majority were under the impression they were there because of being illegal in this country, not because of Social Security fraud.” - “Most did not understand they were in criminal court.
How can someone be charged for a law they hadn’t knowingly broken when the law itself states you have to knowingly break it to be prosecuted? Apparently that’s not important here as ICE is out to put as much pressure on undocumented migrants as possible even if that means failing to recognize basic human rights and the credo of our country – “liberty and justice for all.”
Reading Mr. Camayd-Freixas’s report it is clear the objective was to get as many people into jail as possible. They only had a few days to get as many of the 306 migrants into jail as possible. Each attorney represented 17 migrants and each one had 7 days to utilize the plea bargain of 5 months in jail. Failure to take this plea bargain met with the threat of jail time - up to 2 years. Given that most just wanted to go back home they chose 5 months in jail.
One really sad quote from this article comes from Isaías Pérez Martínez who stated while crying:
I’m illegal, I have no rights. I’m nobody in this country. Just do whatever you want with me.
Though I don’t know where these migrants will be jailed given the 262 migrants to be jailed for 5 months that adds up to 2.5M in revenue for some lucky penitentiary. This is the culture being created here – one which desires to build up prison populations.
If the goal of this present administration is to strip away rights of all that live within the United States we are certainly seeing them do a wonderful job. For those that happen to “fit the description” this country is soon to be a very unwelcome place – and it doesn’t matter if you’re legal or not.