Agriprocessors meat packing raid, Postville, Iowa (kosher, UFCW)
Somewhere from a few hundred to 700 or more persons were arrested in Postville, Iowa earlier today as part of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid of the Agriprocessors meat packing plant in the town. That plant produces kosher meat and is owned by the Rubashkin family, Hasidic Jews from New York; this page has more details on the culture clash after the bought the plant and seem to have gained a great deal of power in the town. Details on the raid itself here. "Immigration rights activists" tried to use scare tactics in expectation of the raid here.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union - a representative of which was recently convicted in a similar case - also didn't want the raid due to an attempt to unionize the workers. Per them, raiding the plant could interfere with "ultimately uncover[ing] unscrupulous employer acts". On the one hand ICE could actually be raiding the plant to interfere with others' investigations, but on the other if they uncover employer malfeasance and it's successfully prosecuted then the UFCW should be happy. Of course, they're being fundamentally dishonest: they want labor laws but not immigration laws to be enforced. The last link lists the contents of a rather interesting subpoena, but it's unclear exactly what was involved. There's no word on whether the plant's owners are involved or cooperated with the investigation, but if the former one would think the UFCW would want a raid. If the latter it would probably have been mentioned. There's a video report on the raid here.
UPDATE: This later report says only about 300 were arrested. And, there was a protest outside the facility where the arrestees were held. Now, turning to a summary of the search warrant, we find that, in a highly encouraging move, ICE paid someone to pose as an illegal alien and recorded his dealings with those at the plant. And, there are allegations of worker abuse, weapons being carried in the plant, and even a meth lab being operated inside the plant. Those protesting the raid would allow activities like that to continue.
UPDATE 2: A report on a 5/13 press conference held by "Matt Dummermuth, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, and Claude Arnold, special agent with Immigration and Customs Enforcement" is here. They didn't say whether the company was being investigated for criminal activity, and:
[They] also refused to comment on if there would be more arrests in relation to the more than 300 outstanding criminal complaints... A total of 390 first-shift workers were arrested as a result of the immigration raid. The event, which boasted 697 criminal complaints and arrest warrants for plant employees, is the largest single-location immigration raid in the nation. Nearly 60 people, most of them women, were released under ICE supervision to care for children or due to medical reasons. Those released are wearing electronic monitoring devices. Of those arrested, 290 are Guatemalan, 93 are Mexican, four are Ukrainian and three are Israeli.
UPDATE 3: Some on the left continue their support for illegal activity and worker abuse, with Frank Sharry offering the press release "The Republican Approach to Immigration Policy: Treat Immigrants Like Cattle" . He says:
The GOP plan of terrorizing Latino immigrants in hopes they will self-deport amounts to a non-violent strategy of ethnic cleansing. Forcing them further into the shadows does nothing to regain control of our chaotic immigration system. And making workers afraid while coddling employers who take advantage of them ends up hurting immigrant and American workers alike.
If the first sentence is true, then we can't enforce our immigration laws, even after they were changed to Sharry's liking: he's simply opposed to immigration enforcement. And, it's certainly true that the Bush administration is in the pocket of cheap labor employers, but the way to end the worker abuse Sharry decries is to reduce illegal immigration, not to encourage it as Sharry would do.
UPDATE 4: The Peck Law Firm (Amy Peck) and Dornan & Lustgarten, both of Omaha, Nebraska have sued ICE in an attempted class action. Another attorney, Sonia Parras Konrad, represents other clients. Their request that their clients not be transferred out of the state was granted (link). From this:
The lawsuit alleges that government agencies and officials violated the immigrant workers' constitutional rights. Those rights include the right to due process, which includes protections from arbitrary prolonged and indefinite detention. The suit also states that their rights to consult with counsel have been violated, among other claims... It claimed that as victims of alleged crimes, the immigrant workers would be eligible for certain visas that would let them gain legal status... It also claimed that some of the detained workers have spouses and children that are U.S. citizens, and could be eligible for immigration relief because of their family ties.
Presumably they're referring to U Visas, something that Peter Schey helped push through.
There's also a Q&A with the author of a book about Postville, Stephen Bloom, here. His book - which appeared in the 90s - detailed several abuses which were mentioned by the government in their search warrant.
Things take a turn out of Iowa in the case of politically connected Rabbi Milton Balkany, who's married to the sister of the Agriprocessors CEO. He apparently recently lost a libel case against the Village Voice: link. Here's a 2003 VV article on him: link.
UPDATE 5: The Fair Immigration Reform Movement informs us (fairimmigration.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/how-to-send-support-to-iowa) that their "partners" the Mexico-linked Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights as well as the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Advocacy Coalition and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition "have come together to provide support and technical assistance to Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement and other allies on the ground". If you too would like to engage in false compassion and help support illegal activity, you can send money to St. Bridget’s Hispanic Ministry Fund in care of Sister Mary McCauley.
7/4/08 UPDATE: From this:
Two supervisors at the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant in Postville on Thursday became the first known members of the company's management to be arrested after a federal immigration raid of the company in May... Juan Carlos Guerrero-Espinoza, 35, and Martin De La Rosa-Loera, 43, are accused of encouraging illegal immigrants to work at the plant, in some cases even helping them obtain false documents before the raid... De La Rosa-Loera oversees the plant's poultry kill facility, and Guerrero-Espinoza is in charge of the beef kill, according to court records. Guerrero-Espinoza is a U.S. citizen, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Pete Deegan Jr. He did not reveal De La Rosa-Loera's citizenship status... ICE officials are seeking the public's help in locating Hosam Amara, 43, last known to live in Postville...
7/9/08 UPDATE: The potential class action mentioned above has been voluntarily dismissed; the plaintiffs' demands to stay in-state were met (link).
7/11/08 UPDATE: Samuel Freedman of the New York Times offers "Iowa Church Is a Beacon After Immigration Raid" (link), a sympathetic (of course) discussion of how St. Bridget's Roman Catholic Church engages in false compassion by supporting illegal activity.
And, the Rubashkin's PR firm is accused of leaving sockpuppet and masquerade comments on blogs (link).