Array of Voices Share Lessons Learned from Agriprocessors Raid
An array of faith and labor leaders joined voices today at a telephonic press conference to call for a more sensible immigration policy in this country. The assembled leaders continue to have serious questions about the May immigration raid at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, IA, as well as the U.S. government’s focus on the criminalization of immigrant workers instead of protecting the labor rights of all.
Gideon Aronoff, President and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society; Rosalind Spigel, Acting Director of the Jewish Labor Committee; Rev. Steve Brackett, Pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Postville, IA; and Rabbi Morris Allen, founder of the new kosher ethical certification initiative Hekhsher Tzedek, joined with Patty Kupfer, Manager of Partnerships for America’s Voice, to discuss the treatment of workers at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant and the need for common-sense immigration reform.
“The immigration raid in Postville underscores why the United States needs comprehensive immigration reform, an important priority of the American Jewish community,” said Gideon Aronoff, President and CEO of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. “Absent real reform, raids, detention and deportation are the only tools left to address immigrants. These actions are no substitute for considered and humane policies that serve both our faith-based values and our interests as Americans.”
Rosalind Spigel, Acting Director of the Jewish Labor Committee, commented, “Just as the immigrant workers at Agriprocessors need to answer to the law, so too should the employers. Employers who threaten and harass their workers, short their pay, put their health and safety at risk, and hire children must also be brought into compliance with the law and face the consequences of their actions. The conditions under which documented and undocumented workers endured were clearly contrary to Jewish values. We uneasily witness the impact of families being torn apart and held in detention on one hand, while the employers — after repeated violations of the law – are neither held responsible nor taken to account.”
“The ICE raid in Postville has returned Postville to the state it was in 15 years ago,” said Rev. Steve Brackett, Pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church of Postville, IA. “All of the work we have done to embrace the diversity of our community, and all of the efforts to build up our community have been destroyed overnight.”
Rabbi Morris Allen added, “What does it mean that we have begun to become a people that appears to be more concerned about the lung of a cow and to determine if the meat will be ‘glatt or non-glatt’ (types of kosher meat), and have turned a blind eye to the dignity of the worker who is processing that meat. That is particularly true when that worker is a non-documented worker who has no ability to give voice to the indignity they must endure.”
“The government’s handling of the Agriprocessors raid sends a strong message to undocumented workers that it simply does not pay to speak out against labor abuses and exploitation. Rather than investigating serious allegations against the company, the government has criminalized these workers and put them on the fast-track to deportation,” said Patty Kupfer, the Manager of Partnerships for America’s Voice. “This action simply perpetuates the broken status quo, where undocumented workers are easily exploited because speaking out could lead to deportation and separation from their families. This gives enormous power to their employers to mistreat workers, and the government is letting them get away with it. Agriprocessors is truly the poster child for our broken immigration system, and its story shows why we need common-sense reform of our immigration laws.”