Putting 2 and 2 Together: Julie Myers, ICE, and Postville, Iowa

We learned from Dr. Erik Camayd-Freixas in his devastating essay (posted by Duke in its entirety at Sanctuary), that there were horrible travesties of both the law and justice itself in how the Postville, Iowa raid was executed.

As Dr. Camayd-Freixas said, speaking of his conversation with one of the immigration judges who had no choice but to rule as a rubber-stamp for the ICE:

As a citizen, I want our judges to administer justice, not a federal agency.

Yet that is exactly what happened.  A federal agency administered “justice” and the defense attorneys and judges were helpless to change anything.  As a result, an entire town was ripped apart, economic devastation ensued, and as we now see (h/t woc phd by way of symsess’ great roundups at Sanctuary), the human rights abuses continue:

Women were deeply impacted by the raids. First, female workers at Postville were part of the round up. The lost access to their children, including babies that were still nursing, without warning nor concern. For others, many of the primary or main source of income in their household was permanently removed. In many cases, the raids also labeled these women as undocumented, ensuring that they could not work. Others, afraid of being deported in a raid, did not return to their jobs. The result is that most of the women are also unemployed and unable to be employed.

For women who did not immediately hear about the raids, there was also the fear and confusion about the location of their sons and husbands. Some women went for days without knowing what had happened. As fear turned into confirmation that men were being held for deportation, women’s anxieties and stressers went up.

But it is not “merely” trauma that is happening to these women.  From Western MA Coalition for Immigrant & Worker Rights:

For those left behind, namely the wives and children of the men taken away, the town has been turned into what some have described as an open-air prison. Dozens of immigrant women remain in Postville without status or a means of support. Many of them are even forbidden from leaving and have been made to wear electronic monitoring bracelets (story covered by Democracy Now!)

Dr. Camayd-Freixas clearly and eloquently speaks of the real reason these raids are continuing, and it’s not about immigration or anything remotely resembling solving the problems of undocumented workers being exploited by greedy employers:

A quick look at the ICE Fiscal Year 2007 Annual Report (www.ice.gov) shows an agency that has grown to 16,500 employees and a $5 billion annual budget, since it was formed under Homeland Security in March 2003, “as a law enforcement agency for the post-9/11 era, to integrate enforcement authorities against criminal and terrorist activities, including the fights against human trafficking and smuggling, violent transnational gangs and sexual predators who prey on children” (17).

No doubt, ICE fulfills an extremely important and noble duty. The question is why tarnish its stellar reputation by targeting harmless illegal workers.

The answer is economics and politics. After 9/11 we had to create a massive force with readiness “to prevent, prepare for and respond to a wide range of catastrophic incidents, including terrorist attacks, natural disasters, pandemics and other such significant events that require large-scale government and law enforcement response” (23). The problem is that disasters, criminality, and terrorism do not provide enough daily business to maintain the readiness and muscle tone of this expensive force.

For example, “In FY07, ICE human trafficking investigations resulted in 164 arrests and 91 convictions” (17). Terrorism related arrests were not any more substantial. The real numbers are in immigration: “In FY07, ICE removed 276,912 illegal aliens” (4). ICE is under enormous pressure to turn out statistical figures that might justify a fair utilization of its capabilities, resources, and ballooning budget.

The answer is money and politics.  This is no different than the cop on the beat who has to fill his quota of tickets in order to keep a good job review — except the resulting human rights abuses are so far beyond what many of us could imagine, even with the minimal coverage by the traditional media of the most egregious cases.

And who is in charge of the ICE, this federal agency that is commiting so many human rights abuses and using the law, Bush-style, to justify its own budget?

Let’s take a look at Julie L. Myers, the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

She assumed the job following a recess appointment by President George W. Bush on January 4, 2006. Previously, Myers worked for the Office of Independent Counsel under Kenneth Starr and was a lead prosecutor in the Independent Counsel’s failed case against Susan McDougal.  After leaving the Office of Independent Counsel, Myers was appointed Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at the Department of Commerce for one year. In that capacity, she oversaw 170 employees and a $25 million budget for one year. She also is the niece of former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Richard Myers, and is the wife of John F. Wood, the current U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri and the former chief of staff for the Secretary of Homeland Security. Michael Chertoff is the Secretary of Homeland Security and her boss.

Nice pedigree, huh?  Goes from a $25 million budget to over $5 billion.  Heckuva job, Julie.  Heckuva job.

Another Monica Goodling.  Another Brownie.

And the result is human rights abuses, human beings dying, families ripped apart, Halliburton built detention centers.

Sound familiar?  Sound like what happened to the folks in New Orleans after Katrina?  Sound like Mister Bush’s usual bad choices for heading big federal governmental agencies?  Sound like cronyism?

It sure sounds like all that to me.

Now we have young people who have lived all their lives in the United States not being allowed to go to community colleges, even if they are willing to pay out of state tuition.  If they are undocumented, it seems, they are no longer  human.  Anything can be done to them.

Sound like Guantanamo?  Sound like Abu Ghraib?  Torture is ok if politicians say it is.  Human rights abuses are just fine if the human being is not really a human being, but “an illegal.”

And for what, exactly?  What is being accomplished by these terror tactics?  The results are horrible to us all … local police being asked to do the job of the feds, soon we’ll all be asked “for our papers” wherever we go, communities devastated, economic hardship.  Employers are not being punished, so they’ll go on with their horrible labor practices.

What is this for, exactly?

Dr. Camayd-Freixas lays it out pretty clearly:

The answer is money and politics.

The ICE wants to continue to receive billions for their bloated budget.  The ICE is willing to commit human rights abuses to do so and then try to deny it afterwards, just like every other federal agency that Bush’s poison hands has touched.

So we have Addington and Yoo justifying torture and Bush claiming if he says it is not torture, then it isn’t.  We have Michael Chertoff, a crony of Julie’s husband, head of Homeland Security, who has waived all environmental considerations to order the building of a useless wall between the US and Mexico.  We have the disgraced and now resigned Alfonso Jackson of HUD who allowed federal funding only for demolition of New Orleans’ public housing, not for rebuilding, in order for his own crony developer friends to profit off of others’ suffering in crappy schemes to make sure those folks who lived there and who worked the service jobs that made New Orleans what it is, never are able to return and live there again.

As the heads of federal agencies profit from their power, the rest of us are all affected by the incompetence and corruption that ensues.  For now, the human rights of undocumented workers and the very poor are being hit the hardest.  But the practices which flow from this will affect us all … we will be spied upon and jerked around when we travel, when we cross a border, when we say something the powers that be do not like.  They want to keep their money and power.  They don’t care at all about problems over immigration, housing, the environment, our national infrastructure, you name it.

Two plus two equals four.  ICE, Julie Myers, and what happened in Postville, Iowa equals human rights abuses, corruption, and utter subversion of our laws.

No nation has the right to abuse human beings.  There is no legality to torture and human rights abuses.  And we are now seeing how that works out all across this nation.


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  1. And the PTB are very concerned that we don’t look at what’s happening when it comes to immigration and the poor.

    Because if we looked and understood, we’d realize that this is happening to us, too.

    • Alma on August 22, 2008 at 07:02

    And not letting it fade away.

    Our gov’t. screws everybody.

  2. …although I would posit that judges are just another government agency.

    • Edger on August 22, 2008 at 07:03

    and putting all this together, NPK.

  3. In his wildest wet dreams, Reagan couldn’t imagine that his neocon fantasies would come so wholly to fruition so quickly.

    Gah.  I am disgusted by all of them.  Somebody at Kos had a diary in which they said they must teach their kids to never vote for a Republican unless they knew the GOPer personally since childhood.  That diarist could have shortened the lesson:

    Never vote for a Rethug.  Ever.

  4. Thanks for staying on this story.

    I also think its important to note that the (so-called) Justice Department scripted the whole process for the (so-called) defense lawyers in Postville ahead of time.

    The ACLU has acquired a copy of a Government “manual” distributed to defense lawyers assigned to represent the immigrant workers arrested in the meat packing raids. The manual contians prepackaged scripts for plea and sentencing hearings as well as documents providing for guilty pleas and waivers of rights to be used by both the judges and attorneys in expediting procedures as quickly as possible with little regard for due process.

  5. after lots of allegations of safety violations due to poor conditions at the Agriprocessor’s plant, Iowa’s Labor Division cited the plant for 31 safety violations.  Far too late for many workers who were injured, but at least some action is being taken against management.    

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