Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stop the ICE Raids

Congressmen Gutierrez and Baca denounce Bush, call on
ICE to stop raids

Mr. President, Stop These Raids on Our Communities

By Luis Gutierrez and Joe Baca

Chicago Tribune - August 6, 2008,0,3894335.story

As members of Congress, we have traveled to remote
corners of the world and had our eyes opened to some of
the worst human suffering imaginable - abject poverty,
meager wages, poor working conditions, paltry access to
legal counsel and a jarring lack of fairness in the

We never imagined that we would witness the same
injustices in a small American town just a five-hour
drive from Chicago.

During a visit to Postville, Iowa, last weekend, site
of the May 12 Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid
of the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant, we saw
firsthand how a broken Immigration system devastates a
small town.

Mothers bound to electronic bracelets were allowed
neither to work nor to return to their home countries,
leaving them without recourse to pay rent or feed their
children. Wives and children - many of them U.S.
citizens - were left to wonder where their husbands and
fathers had been taken, or where they would go next. To
this day, more than half of the wives do not know where
their husbands are.

Meanwhile, a 16-year-old boy spoke of working 17-hour
shifts, six days a week, without overtime on the kill
floor of a meatpacking plant. Women from the
slaughterhouse spoke of male supervisors demanding sex
in return for decent hours, decent pay and decent
treatment on the job. These workers were victimized,
only to be herded like animals when ICE swept the plant
and left their employers without punishment.

There is no mistaking that these men and women are
suffering at the hands of the U.S. government and our
president. Our broken Immigration system has paved a
way to the objectification of human beings at the
expense of our labor laws, U.S. workers' safety and
basic family values.

Instead of taking a stand against the outright
victimization of workers - many of them minors, and all
of them legally entitled to labor protections - the
Bush administration decided that meatpackers posed a
greater threat to our security than suspected
terrorists or physically abusive employers.

Almost two years to the day before the administration
sent 900 ICE agents to storm Agriprocessors, President
George W. Bush appeared before the American people and
declared: "We're a nation of laws, and we must enforce
our laws. We're also a nation of immigrants, and we
must uphold that tradition, which has strengthened our
country in so many ways. These are not contradictory
goals. America can be a lawful society and a welcoming
society at the same time."

Postville has plainly shown that we are neither of
those things. We are not "lawful" when we interrupt
investigations spearheaded by our own Department of
Labor. We are not lawful when we implement fear tactics
and deportation-only policies simply to score cheap
political points with conservative pundits. We are not
lawful when we railroad men and women through the
judicial process, without adequate representation or a
full understanding of their rights.

We are certainly not "welcoming" when hardworking
mothers and fathers are prohibited from raising their
U.S. citizen children in the country of their birth, or
when those who work the longest hours at the most
undesirable jobs are treated like terrorists, simply
for waking up and going to work.

There is no other reasonable response than to demand
that Bush remember his words of welcome and his
commitment to law, by placing a moratorium on
Immigration raids until we have passed effective,
comprehensive reform. The nation that we love, respect
and serve is better than this. Bush stood before the
American people and proclaimed:

"An Immigration reform bill needs to be comprehensive,
because all elements of this problem must be addressed
together, or none of them will be solved at all."

But headline-grabbing tactics like the Postville raid
had nothing to do with comprehensive reform. Bush has
forgotten his promise.

No one benefits when taxpayers pay $590,000 a month to
jail Postville's detainees. As a society, we fail when
our factories are less safe, when the perpetrators go
uncharged or when our laws remove infants from nursing
mothers and create broken homes for U.S. citizen

We can all agree that we need Immigration reform that
is tough on enforcement. However, any system which
fails to respect the enormous contributions immigrants
make to our workforce, that fails to reflect our proud
history of welcoming those who seek a better life and
that fails to protect all U.S. workers and our
homeland, fails the American people.

The Postville raid failed our nation on all three of
those levels. Any future raid would be equally and
profoundly inexcusable and cause yet another avoidable
blight on our history.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is chair of the
Congressional Hispanic Caucus' Immigration Task Force
and Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) is chair of the caucus.

Copyright c 2008, Chicago Tribune

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