Bushco Bullies Immigrants In Iowa

( – promoted by undercovercalico)

cross posted from The Dream Antilles

The New York Times reports that 270 undocumented workers who were arrested at a meat plant in Iowa in March, instead of being swiftly deported back to Guatemala, have instead been convicted of federal misdemeanors, sentenced to 5 months incarceration, and then will be immediately deported.  This marks a lamentable, new, harsher policy toward punishing defenseless undocumented workers who are selected for this special treatment.  And, let me say it, it’s a show designed to frighten and threaten and disrupt the other almost 15 million undocumented workers now in the US.

In temporary courtrooms at a fairgrounds here, 270 illegal immigrants were sentenced this week to five months in prison for working at a meatpacking plant with false documents.

The prosecutions, which ended Friday, signal a sharp escalation in the Bush administration’s crackdown on illegal workers, with prosecutors bringing tough federal criminal charges against most of the immigrants arrested in a May 12 raid. Until now, unauthorized workers have generally been detained by immigration officials for civil violations and rapidly deported.

The convicted immigrants were among 389 workers detained at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in nearby Postville in a raid that federal officials called the largest criminal enforcement operation ever carried out by immigration authorities at a workplace.

Isn’t that efficient and fast.  The poultry workers were arrested on March 12, they pleaded guilty in record time, and they were sentenced in short order.  How, you might inquire, did this happen so swiftly?  Where was their relentless, publicly funded defense?  Where were their trials, their juries, their appeals, the recognition by the defense that these kinds of proceedings need to be fought and fought hard?  Answer: none of that happened because the government used threats to cow the accused into pleading guilty.

The unusually swift proceedings, in which 297 immigrants pleaded guilty and were sentenced in four days, were criticized by criminal defense lawyers, who warned of violations of due process. /snip

The illegal immigrants, most from Guatemala, filed into the courtrooms in groups of 10, their hands and feet shackled. One by one, they entered guilty pleas through a Spanish interpreter, admitting they had taken jobs using fraudulent Social Security cards or immigration documents. Moments later, they moved to another courtroom for sentencing.

The pleas were part of a deal worked out with prosecutors to avoid even more serious charges. Most immigrants agreed to immediate deportation after they serve five months in prison.

The hearings took place on the grounds of the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo, in mobile trailers and in a dance hall modified with black curtains, beginning at 8 a.m. and continuing several nights until 10. On Wednesday alone, 94 immigrants pleaded guilty and were sentenced, the most sentences in a single day in this northern Iowa district, according to Robert L. Phelps, the clerk of court.

Mr. Arnold, the immigration agent, said the criticism of the proceedings was “the usual spate of false allegations and baseless rumors.”

The US Supreme Court decided many years ago that threatening the accused with much worse punishment and prosecution of much more severe crimes was a permitted tactic of US federal prosecutors.  So there was nothing illegal about telling the workers that if they didn’t plead to the misdemeanor and go to jail for 5 months they’d be prosecuted for felonies and go to prison for two years.  Either way, the prosecutors said, they’d be deported afterwards.

What’s surprising, though, is that apparently not one of the workers elected to tell prosecutors to shove it, to have a jury trial for the threatened felony in an effort to slow down the greased railroad the feds set up for all of those seized in this case.  Put simply, no one resisted, no one called the prosecutor’s bluff.  All of those arrested apparently folded quickly.

Now the feds have a “success”, and you can be sure that they’ll try it again, over and over again, across the country.  If a chicken plant in Iowa was the first target, who knows what will be next:

Matt M. Dummermuth, the United States attorney for northern Iowa, who oversaw the prosecutions, called the operation an “astonishing success.”

Claude Arnold, a special agent in charge of investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said it showed that federal officials were “committed to enforcing the nation’s immigration laws in the workplace to maintain the integrity of the immigration system.”

How cynical, how frightening this tactic is.  The government’s beating up on Guatemalan poultry workers in Iowa doesn’t show that federal officials are “committed to enforcing the nation’s immigration laws…to maintain the integrity of the immigration system.”  It shows that the government has launched a campaign of fear and intimidation against the weakest undocumented workers.  So much for long forgotten, “compassionate conservatism,” so much for immigration reform.  Tell me this draconian policy doesn’t have anything to do with the November election.


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  1. The bullies need to be deported from Washington.  The US needs a domestic regime change.

    Thanks for reading.

  2. How cynical, how frightening this tactic is.

    It sure is.

    How many people will have to suffer before Americans realize what a horrible injustice is happening?

    I am angry with the Rahm Emmanuel Democrats who are too cowardly to take this issue on.

    And I am disgusted and despise the small groups of hateful people, i.e., FAIR and NumbersUSA and their ilk, who are gleeful at this development, the result of their hard work in promoting hate and revenge.

    • Robyn on May 24, 2008 at 5:34 pm
  3. I’ve been following this situation and below are a few snipets of information.

    . . . .Agriprocessor’s management must have been pleased with the timing of the raid. Not only did it put at least a crimp in the ongoing investigations of serious allegations of abuse by the company, it also derailed an effort by UFCW to organize the plants’ workers and give them a shot at bargaining with management for better working conditions.


    . . . .The Postville raid came at an opportune time not only for the plant’s owners, but also for the Bush administration. The same week, a series of high-profile media reports by 60 Minutes and the Washington Post — as well as the New York Times — began focusing public attention on America’s nightmarish system of immigration “detention centers.”

    Two weeks earlier, as the New York Times’ Nina Bernstein reported, a group of former detainees had sued Michael Chertoff for putting “hundreds of thousands of people a year in substandard and inconsistent conditions while the government decides whether to deport them, leaving them subject to inadequate medical care and abuse.”

    and look at the tactics being used on these foreigners:

    . . . .The Post’s investigative team also found that the “U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country.” Involuntary drugging of “detainees, unless there is a medical justification, is a violation of some international human rights codes,” the Post noted.

    Source for quotes above

    There are also incidents of torture and complete medical neglect in the case of many being detained (across the country).

    Why is it everything BushCo do is attached to utter evil?  I guess that’s a dumb question, as we’ve been seeing it right down the line — the answer is they are just plain evil and enjoy perpetrating suffering on other, less fortunate human beings.

    Here is a video, which is straight forward, presented by a couple of the immigrant workers in Postville:

    (And, the reason most of these immigrants seek work elsewhere is because of our trade laws that have caused the poverty in most of the Latin American countries.)

    Thanks for this essay, davidseth.

  4. My question. Why aren’t they leading the employers away in shackles. These people willfully hired illegal immigrants to whom no benefits or worker protection would be offered and the owners profited.

    I think this is the easy way out. It plays to the fears of Americans about “illegals breaking the law” and does nothing to address the larger more complex issues. It gives Republicans something to run on “I am going to throw them all in jail and protect Americans blah, blah.” Never mind that it doesn’t do much to actually help American workers.

    At one time meat plants were dangerous if somewhat decent paying union jobs. It helps to play split and divide among workers without addressing the fact that many American workers now have less access to union jobs or are being subject to “two tiered” wage systems. I believe the auto factories and International harvester do this. They pay the new hires at substantially less than the old guard. Keeps the profits rolling and creates resentment among the workers themselves.

    Sorry. As usual I went on too long.

  5. with reform of our immigration laws:

    Since the raids were carried out under immigration law, many protections in place under the American criminal codes did not apply. Foreign residents of the United States, whether here legally or not, answer to a different set of rules.

    Immigration agents are not required to obtain warrants to detain suspects. The agents also have broad authority to question people about their immigration status and to search them and their homes. There are no Miranda rights that agents must read when making arrests. Detained immigrants have the right to a lawyer, but only one they can pay for.

    Everyone in this country, whether illegaly here or not, deserves the same Constitutionally mandated rights.

    After all, that’s what ‘Inalienable’ means; that we are granted these Rights simply by virtue of our status as human beings, not by virtue of any capricious status the government decides to assign us.

  6. It makes me all the more determined to do what I can to join with the folks at The Sanctuary to do what I can to stop this insanity.

  7. backfiring in Arizona – a state that seems to be “ahead of the curve” on the hatemongering. Take a look at this

    From The Sanctuary, this is what Duke has to say:

    They want a guest worker program, limited to agricultural workers that “doesn’t lead to citizenship, doesn’t lead to permanent status, can’t bring family with you, can’t come here and have your babies, can’t come here and be a burden on the taxpayer,  come here, work, earn your wages, pay your taxes and go home when it’s done” …  Essentially, a  return to a bracero style program of the past.

    The answer to our failed immigration system is not to perpetuate and expand on failed policies, or return to exploitive and discriminatory practices of the past. Allowing workers to be treated as commodities, to be traded across borders at will to the lowest bidder, is no substitute for true reform of the system.

  8. LOS ANGELES – Federal immigration agents have arrested 905 people in California in the past three weeks after a statewide search for those who had violated orders to leave the country. The operation was the latest in a series of national sweeps by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.


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