May 12, 2009
Today is the first anniversary of ICE’s enforcement action at the Agriprocessors Inc. meat processing plant in Postville, Iowa. On May 12, 2008, over 900 ICE agents arrested 389 undocumented workers in an enforcement action bigger than any other that had come before. Today, Agriprocessors managers face both state and federal charges and the company has declared bankruptcy. The town’s population has shrunk by nearly half. Those who remain in the town of Postville are being held together and supported as a community by the local faith groups, including St. Bridget’s Catholic Church.
Two weeks ago, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano issued new guidelines for worksite enforcement actions conducted by that agency. DHS reinforced its commitment to focus on the criminal prosecution of employers who knowingly hire illegal workers. The scope of DHS’ humanitarian guidelines was expanded to include targeted employers with 25 or more illegal workers. The government has also asserted that ICE will be held to high standards of investigation, including seeking evidence of mistreatment of workers, trafficking, smuggling, harboring, and other criminal conduct. In the same Fact Sheet that outlined these changes, however, DHS stated that "ICE will continue to arrest and process for removal any illegal workers who are found in the course of these worksite enforcement actions in a manner consistent with immigration law and DHS priorities."
Bishop John C. Wester, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration released a statement recalling the humanitarian cost of enforcement actions such as the one that took place in Postville. He stated that Catholic leaders “understand and support the right and responsibility of the government to enforce the law” while also stating that “worksite enforcement raids do not solve the challenge of illegal immigration. Instead, they lead to the separation of U.S. families and the destruction of immigrant communities.” Bishop Wester called upon Catholics and others to commemorate the first anniversary of the Postville raid by keeping those involved in our prayers and “to work for comprehensive immigration reform so that others will not face similar pain and cruelty in the future.”
The full text of Bishop Wester’s statement can be found at: http://www.usccb.org/mrs/Potsville.pdf
Allison Posner is the director of CLINIC’s Center for Immigrant Rights.