(Additional comments on this story) Regardless of your stance on the current immigration issue it’s important that you learn at least one thing from the Postville story. It’s that the government has no desire to prosecute business owners while they go after the easy targets – migrants. In Erik Camayd-Freixas full account (posted at The Sanctuary) of his time in Postville you can see that even though the migrants had no idea what a Social Security number was they were prosecuted for having fake documents. It is clear in my mind that Agriprocessors helped obtain and secure false documentation so they could employ these people yet when it came time to find a culprit the migrants were the easiest target. ICE gave the migrants two options after charging them with identity theft (even though only on of a few hundred numbers actually belonged to a real person) and Social Security Fraud- either you plead guilty to five month’s in jail or you wait in jail for up to eight months to go to trial and face a possible two year sentence. Naturally they wanted to get home as soon as possible so they accepted five months. This tactic helped keep Agriprocessors in the clear because nobody was going to reject the plea and try to take them on for providing false documents to people that didn’t even know what the documents were.
At the cattle ground were the make-shift detention center and court was located they were able to prosecute them in seven days. Trying to prosecute Agriprocessors would have required a lengthy and expensive trial and would have turned the migrants into witnesses. Given our current immigration debate this would have been a mess for ICE and our government, both who need to appear they are doing something to protect us while ensuring undocumented migrants are given no rights. Though I’m not sure how arresting men and women working in a meat processing plant is protecting us – that’s how it’s happening. While so many scream and holler about MS-13 and other such gangs they are not being arrested because they’re not as easy to arrest as people hard at work.
Now ICE can tout their big operation and some lucky jail can cash in a cool 2.5M. Not bad for seven day’s work.
(My original post)
This is the story of those migrants swept of in the Postville Iowa immigration raid as told by one of the interpreters. The article 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 not to simply deport, but 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. Why are employer’s rarely charged with an offense when in this case it seems they had to have been involved in falsifying the documents that landed these migrants in jail?
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.