A few links on the anniversary of the Postville raid

One year after federal immigration agents raided the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa, arresting nearly 400 immigrants, prayer vigils are planned in Postville and in at least 50 other cities across the country:

“Postville will one day be remembered as a dark chapter in U.S. history that served as a catalyst for reforming our nation’s immigration system into something we can take pride in again,” said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, a nonpartisan, pro-immigrant advocacy group in Washington.


Ever since the raid, pro-immigration groups, including the Catholic church and other religious and political lobbies, have used it to illustrate what they argue is the basic unfairness of punishing illegal immigrants seeking a better life.

To make their point, today they are staging a prayer vigil, news conferences, a blessing for the town and a symbolic march to the Agriprocessors plant.

“We are working hard to raise the national consciousness about the devastation of this raid,” said Sister Mary McCauley. “We are calling for complete immigration reform and an end to the raids. … We can never be proud of what happened here.”

I’M for Iowa sent out an e-mail yesterday about the vigils:

People are asked to gather at St. Bridget’s Church at 4:00 p.m. for a prayer vigil followed by a march to the Agriprocessors plant where the raid took place. Text for the prayer vigil is available for adaptation for local use.

If you aren’t able to travel to Postville, there may be a vigil in your home town, since May 12th has been declared a nationwide day of remembrance to promote awareness of the devastating effects of raids such as this. In Des Moines, Catholic Charities’ Social Justice Consortium will hold an interfaith prayer service at 3:30 at St. Ambrose Church. Contact Sol Varisco at svarisco@dmdiocese.org.

More links are after the jump.

Lynda Waddington has been covering this story for the past year at Iowa Independent, and her latest reflection is worth a read. The “assembly line justice” used against those arrested in Postville has drawn criticism. Charges of aggravated identity theft were used to pressure many of the arrested workers into pleading guilty to lesser charges. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that federal prosecutors have misused the identity theft statute against undocumented workers.

Senator Tom Harkin praised that Supreme Court ruling while standing by his recommendation that Stephanie Rose be appointed U.S. attorney for Iowa’s Northern District. Rose was an assistant attorney in the office that handled the Postville prosecutions, but 11 defense attorneys have supported her nomination.

The Des Moines Register’s editorial board has repeatedly called for for immigration reform. In Tuesday’s paper, editors noted the recent Supreme Court ruling and agreed that is it wrong to prosecute undocumented workers for identity theft:

Most immigrants here illegally are not interested in stealing people’s identities in the way identity thieves are out to steal assets; they are looking for a way to earn a living wage. Congress should allow that by making it easier for immigrant workers to come to this country to meet work-force needs, and by allowing those already here, leading otherwise law-abiding lives, to remain here legally.

In Monday’s paper, the Des Moines Register editors cited other arguments in favor of immigration reform:

Sixty-one percent of Americans now favor giving illegal immigrants “the right to live here legally if they pay a fine and meet other requirements,” according to results of an ABC News-Washington Post Poll released in late April. That’s a big jump from the 49 percent of Americans who supported doing this in 2007.

A Des Moines Register Iowa Poll in September 2008 yielded similar results: 54 percent of participants said the country should find a way to let illegal immigrants stay if they have jobs. These responses argue for a moratorium on raids like the one in Postville until President Barack Obama and Congress can agree on comprehensive immigration reform.

Let’s stop terrorizing people here illegally because they were desperate to escape poverty in their home countries but have done nothing wrong otherwise. […]

Illegal immigrant workers are vulnerable to abuse. Their children – who often are American citizens – fear their parents will be taken away. And the towns where illegal immigrants live and work face terrible hardship when there is a raid and many people are deported or move away, as residents of Postville can tell you.

Besides giving illegal workers who meet certain requirements a means to become law-abiding citizens, Washington should:

– Raise immigration quotas to meet U.S. work-force needs and reunify families.

– Establish a guest-worker program that is flexible enough to meet changing employer needs while protecting employee rights. Let guest workers travel freely across the border with Mexico.

A path to citizenship would allow people to come out from the black-market economy while letting law enforcement and immigration officers focus on illegal immigrants who are breaking other laws.

A child at my son’s school has been separated from his father for more than a year. The father came to this country illegally 10 years ago. Since then he has worked, paid taxes, started his own business that employed other people as well, married a native-born American and had two children. However, his request for permanent residency was denied because of the way he came to this country. His wife must now either move to Mexico with their two children or in essence raise her kids as a single parent.

The Des Moines Register has been following the story of a Des Moines area restaurant owner who was recently arrested and deported:

Riggoberto Ochoa, 38, a co-owner of Yanni’s Grill & Vineyard restaurants in Ankeny and West Des Moines, called his brother and business partner, Oswaldo Ochoa, during the weekend to say he was in his native Ecuador after being held for several weeks by immigration authorities in Nebraska and then briefly in Louisiana.

A married father of three children, Ochoa was arrested April 1 at lunchtime at Yanni’s Ankeny location.


“Riggo” Ochoa was arrested crossing the border into California at the age of 16. He went to one court hearing afterward but never made it to a second hearing aimed at helping determine his fate. Notice of that hearing was sent to the family’s apartment in New York City, which had burned in a fire, Oswaldo Ochoa said.

Afterward, Riggoberto Ochoa applied three times to become a legal citizen and was denied.

Ochoa is one of several people who have been arrested and deported in Iowa since U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement opened a fugitive unit in Des Moines late last year. The unit, one of several that have opened nationally in recent years, became fully operational in February.

It is ridiculous to devote Immigration and Customs Enforcement resources to arresting, holding and deporting someone like Ochoa. According to the Des Moines Register, “Court records show Ochoa was never in trouble with the law while in the United States.” There are 12 million undocumented immigrants in this country, and they go after a responsible business owner with a family?

Give people like him and the father of my son’s classmate a chance to pay a fine and perform community service as part of a path to citizenship. Punishing families and disrupting businesses that employ other Americans solves nothing.

Please share any thoughts about immigration policy in this thread.

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