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.