Postville Iowa: A First-Hand Account

(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.


15 thoughts on “Postville Iowa: A First-Hand Account”

  1. While it’s relatively difficult to proof wrongdoing on the part of the employers, especially the HUGE ones, it’s relatively easy to prove wrongdoing on the part of the ILLEGAL workers. No green card, no proof of citizenship, on the bus.

    It’s a matter of timing and of proof.

    Quick trial, quick bus ride, wham, bam, thank you Ma’am, back in Juarez.

    Before you get all uppity on your high horse about prosecuting the businesses, I stand squarely behind you when you (do you?) scream for the prosecution of those who employ ILLEGAL workers. Fine them, jail them, close them down.

    But remember, this would reverse direction of all those ILLEGAL buddies of yours. No jobs, no migra… back home to the squalor and corruption south of the border.

    Regrettably, the realities of domestic jurisprudence are such that it’s quicker, easier and MORE NEWSWORTHY to simply gather up the ILLEGAL workers and take them back home.

    Your partners in journalistic crime don’t take delight in screaming from the rafters about the evils of busting the Swift managers in Greeley, so we don’t get to read about that here.

    The absence of agribusiness prosecution stories on this here blog does not prove the lack of said prosecutions.

    They do happen, Hun, they do happen. They’re just not sympathetic nor whine-promoting nor do they get off by hiding in a church.

  2. (I’m not sure which of the three posts you prefer above, but let me know and I’ll remove the other two.)

    This actually has a lot to do with a mindset held by those ‘with’ against those ‘without’. In the case of these businesses they are the ‘withs’ and regardless of anything I can do know the migrants, or ‘withouts’ are going to be punished for being here illegally. Therefore I believe the employers should be held accountable for their actions. Sadly our society dictates that the more power you have the less culpable your are for your actions.

    I’m not certain what you mean about busting the Swift & Co. managers as they were not prosecuted – unless I missed something. The Postville raids have garnered much attention because of the way they were carried out and the damage done to the community.

    The truth is I don’t have all the answers. All I know is it would be irresponsible of me to watch other people being treated like criminals simply for trying to forge a better life. These are not criminals as you (no you, but others) would describe a citizen who’s decided to rob a bank, which is an analogy I hear quite often. They risk their lives by staying here (and some in their journey here) and work every day for what they get. The only difference between them and me is that God didn’t give them the gift of being born in America. Personally I see my gift as akin to three wishes. I can wish for something personal or wish for something that will help others. Of course, this ain’t wishing because that’s not going to work for these people.

    So if you’re ok watching people suffer then go ahead and do what you do. Otherwise at least work for justice because I can guarantee you that this country is not going to be the same wonderful place if we watch our supposed “liberty and justice for all” go down the drain. First they start with the undocumented, then they expand what makes a terrorist and finally they’ll just take whomever they want. We’ve seen it happen before and we know that history has no problem repeating itself.

    As far as prosecutions, if we believe this story from the Houston Chronicle then there’s only been 2% of employers prosecuted as a result of these raids. I’m sure for business owners they’re willing to take that gamble.

  3. It would seem the difference between your view of justice and mine is the placement of the line.

    One could argue that organized car thieves work every day for what they get, and the only difference between them and Paris Hilton is that God didn’t give them the gift of born into that families wealth. They typically come from the bottom of the social strata, so if they didn’t steal the Corollas and F-150’s their families would remain in the toilet.

    Someone would argue, I’m sure, that theirs is a victimless crime because most if not all their victims are insured, so it’s just the big evil insurance companies that get hurt, and that’s ok.

    Car thieves risk their lives doing what they do, as do the bank robbers from whom God kept the same gift of wealth. They too are simply trying to forge a better life. Since the FDIC insures the banks, then no one is hurt, right? Bank robbers work every day for what they get, it’s a hard life constantly running from the FBI.

    How do we decide where the line gets drawn?

    For most, the line is called the US Code of Justice.

    Right now, it lumps the Illegal Immigrants, the car thieves and the bank robbers on the same side of the line. Not to the same degree, to be sure, but unarguably on the same side.

    Daddy came to the US from what is now Croatia in 1913, with his family. He was 5. Grandpa came here in 1911, to make enough money to bring his family.

    They didn’t crawl in the bedroom window in the dead of night. They didn’t lie, cheat or steal to come here. They came up to the door and knocked, a lady named Libby was there to answer. It’s a big door. She lit it with her lantern. She carried a book with her. It was the Code I talked about earlier. Libby taught them the language and told them we had laws which were to be followed, and that there were penalties for not following them.

    It’s about the law. And fairness. My family worked hard, I work hard. But we play by the rules or we have no rules.

    Those who don’t follow the rules MUST BE PUNISHED, or there is no law. There can be no massive multi-million man amnesty, The precedent can’t be set.

    If you do the crime, you do the time. Always been that way, has to be that way.


  4. The failure to prosecute the employers is a mistake.

    It does NOT, however, change the fact that the workers stole their jobs, that their very presence in this country is a crime.


    They made a choice. They could either ask permission and follow the law, or they could ignore the law and come anyway.


    If you do the crime, you do the time. Always been that way, has to be that way.


  5. Speaking of punishing agribusiness, weren’t two supervisors at this facility charged with crimes??? See your posted link to a SLCTribune story.

    Did you clap your hands? Did you cheer?

    Their crimes were obvious and easily provable. They’re going down.

    We should all cheer.

    Did you cheer?

  6. How does one steal a job? You fail to recognize the many that overstayed visa therefore coming in quite legally.

    There were two people at Agriprocessors accused. One was a low-level manager who was obviously a scapegoat and the other higher-level person flew to Israel to escape prosecution.

    I believe you recognized speeding as a crime previously. How many people speed? How many do the time? Do you ever speed? If so please report to the nearest police station and confess to each occurrence. I’ll certainly be cheering.

  7. “No jobs, no migra… back home to the squalor and corruption south of the border.”

    Rick, what do you envision when you think “South of Border”? Have you ever visited this place full of “squalor” and “corruption”? I can’t imagine you have.

    I hope someday you are in position in your life to really learn about the reality of others who live in countries outside of the U.S., where starvation-level poverty is the reality for many, including children. If you do, I doubt you will be so filled with self righteousness and anger directed against innocent people, just trying to survive.

  8. How does one steal a job? By taking the job while living ILLEGALLY in the country in which you’re employed, either by overstaying your agreed-upon time of residence, or by entering the country ILLEGALLY.

    Incredibly simplistic, if of course your eyes are open instead of being wide shut.

    Obviously a scapegoat. My, my, my, how omnipotent of you. With those powers I’d spend more time in Vegas if I were you.

    How many do time for speeding? Very, very few, because we as a people chose to punish speeding with a fine not with ‘time”… again, incredibly simplistic if your eyes aren’t wide shut.

    I hardly ever speed intentionally. Sorry, but it’s true.

    I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting Mexico. However, the sheer numbers of folks willing to brave miles of desert travel on foot without adequate water, people willing to risk their lives and their freedom to escape Mexico, this has to tell you something about the country.

    Since the people in the USA are, from what I read from the blog owner, all racists full of hate for Hispanics and devoid of caring for their fellow man, Mexico must really be a horrible place if SO MANY PEOPLE are willing to risk SO MUCH to escape it and come to a country so full of non-caring racists.

    Or am I missing something?

    Why are so many crawling over each other to leave Mexico?

    People who willfully BREAK THE LAW are NOT INNOCENT… Sorry Julie, but you’re confused as to the definition of innocent.

  9. When have I stated that everyone here is racist? I actually use that world very selectively and only with adequate proof. I also don’t believe everyone here is terrible. Your man Tancredo didn’t get the Republican nod so there must be some good people – right?

    I believe most Americans are good people. Sadly though there are many that aren’t very nice to others and I write about the ones that vilify migrants and exhibit racism.

    You never speed intentionally, but you do. Not everyone here illegally did so intentionally either.

    “Do the time” is an expression not meant to say they’d go to jail though sever reckless driving, driving while intoxicating or excessive speed will land you in jail unless I’m missing something. Point is people follow the law based on likelihood of being caught and severity of punishment. Because both are low for speeding people do it readily essentially scoffing at this “nation of laws.” But if you’re a migrant looking for a better life then you’re obviously evil and deserve severe punishment for breaking what amounts to an infraction – just like speeding.

    We as people of this planet have certain rights that should be held up by all of those that share this world with us. You obviously don’t feel this way.

  10. Ever heard the concept that “ignorance of the law is no excuse”?

    So you’re saying that everyone on the planet has a right to live and work wherever they want?

    Is that the “certain right” that should be held up by everyone?

  11. No, the point is that the employer obviously did all the dirty work given these people didn’t understand what they were signing. However, they did understand they were here illegally which should have just warranted a trip back home. It isn’t until they try to come back that they’re locked up I do believe.

    These migrants were forced into pleading guilty in order to keep the employer out of trouble and to make ICE look good. You can actually visualize that backroom deal happening. Bottom line is those workers are in jail and Agriprocessors is still churnin’ out the meat. Thankfully though many people are questioning that company’s ethics and maybe they’ll go out of business for lack of it.

    Now I know a company that falls takes with it many people, but rather than falling I hope they’ll treat people in an effort to gain back customers. I’d rather they did it because it’s the right thing to do, but we already know that’s not the case.

    Technically we can’t all work wherever we want because two people cannot occupy the same space at the same time, but what would be nice is that everyone could work and be happy were they are now. That being said we can’t ignore the plight of others.

    I understand everyone cannot migrate to America; however, we cannot deny a human’s basic right to survival. We can be Americans while working with the world community to ensure everybody has what they need. We certainly are good at carting weapons around the world. So we have the model down, we’re just using the wrong tool.

    Why not tell me what you believe the answer is and how you see things panning out if your vision was promoted. In this vision do we address the needs of the world or do we just worry about America?

  12. rick
    Why doesn’t lady “libby” welcome those immigrants from south of the border?
    Why isn’t she calling them? Does she not need them?
    Are they useless when they come here?
    I’m sure that the reason why she welcomed your immigrant family was because of their pretty faces…
    Can you imagine where you would be if “libby” had not welcomed your family?
    where would you be??
    probably an ignorant idiot (which you still are) from whatever country you said your family is from.

  13. Ok here is my opinion. First of all the employees who were faking the credentials should do time and have been arrested.

    All of the Illeagal immigrants, Men women and children should be immediately deported. Illeagal is the key word here. They came into this country in an fashion that broke our laws, therefore they must go. If you enter the USA legally then Welcome Welcome Welcome if not you should be prepared to deal with all the consequences!

  14. Yes, people who commit a crime should be punished. If you commit murder, you should spend the rest of your life in prison. If you get a traffic violation ticket, you should pay a fine.

    Is immigration really a crime? I don’t think so. Immigration is human nature and how could you call human nature a crime?

    It is human nature to immigrate, to look for a better way of life. Immigration is not a crime. However, this country , according to law, does not allow immigrants to come into this country illegaly for working purposes. But what really puzzles me is that most of them find jobs without much of a problem.

    If Americans don’t want Illegal immigrants working in the USA why do they give them jobs?! I know why! To exploit them, to treat them like slaves and to make the biggest profit possible!!!!! and when shit hits the fan, the American business owners blame all of their misfortunes on the immigrants who have no other intention than to make a few extra bucks to feed their families. This my friends, is an injustice and a contradiction.

    “You are welcome, welcome, welcome,” is what immigrants will say if you you say “Thank you for all of your hard work.”

    Immigrants keep coming to our country illegally because American business owners want them and need them. Immigrants are risking their life and their health in order to come to this country and when they do come here and contribute to the American economy in a positive way they end up being scrutinized, exploited and disrespected.

    It is time that we, Americans, stop being racist and naive and start appreciating the positive impact that immigrants have on our economy. If it wasn’t for immigrants we would be in an even BIGGER economic recession right now!!!!

    Now, my fellow Americans, I will ask you this last question:

    If you don’t want undocumented immigrants working in the USA, then DON’T hire them and your problems will be SOLVED!!!!! But you wont stop hiring them because you need them!!!

    If you need them and obviously employ them, why do you treat them like criminals??

    If you are hiring them and exploiting them, then you are the criminal!!!

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