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Statement from Frank Sharry on Postville Raids

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News reports about the immigration raid in Postville, Iowa Monday have shined a spotlight on Republican mismanagement of the immigration issue. In response Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, the communications and rapid response arm of the newly-established campaign to advance immigration reform, issued the following statement.

“Tough questions need to be asked of Republicans about their inept handling of immigration policy. Despite a vow to get tough on employers, last year Secretary Michael Chertoff fined only 17 employers for hiring undocumented workers. Fully 98% of the Department’s immigration arrests in 2007 were of workers, not employers. At least 7 million immigrants in the U.S. are employed illegally by a total of 6 million U.S. businesses, and DHS can find only 17 companies to fine? This can only mean that the Republican Party likes to talk tough about upholding the rule of law, while going after the little guy and giving de facto ‘amnesty’ to the employers who profit from our broken immigration system.

“In addition to breaking immigration laws, press reports have uncovered sickening violations of labor laws and inhumane treatment of workers by the employers at the Postville plant. Will the Agriprocessors owners and managers be investigated for their labor practices and immigration law violations? Did the plant’s owners collude with DHS to keep workers from exercising their labor rights? Is there a connection between the thousands of dollars the owners contributed to the GOP and the fact that so far no charges have been brought against them (Des Moines Register, “Immigration raid: Plant official is GOP contributor,” 5/13/08)?

“What is the law enforcement theory behind the raid? Apparently, it reflects the Republican embrace of the extremist positions promoted by anti-immigrant hard-liners. They advocate a strategy of ‘attrition through enforcement.’ The notion is that if mostly Latino immigrant workers and families – legal and not – are sufficiently terrorized they will deport themselves. The fact that anti-immigrant zealots have come up with a way to slap a clever phrase and a smiley face on top of the ugly prospect of mass deportation is not a surprise. The Republican Party’s embrace of this impractical, costly, inhumane, and un-American strategy is both repugnant and shameful.

“U.S. Congressman Bruce Braley (D-1st/IA) was right on the mark when he said, ‘I’ll be interested to see if federal authorities will be bringing any charges against the employer. We know that the Swift Company never faced any charges after the raid in Marshalltown, and the enforcement of immigration violations against corporations has plummeted during the Bush administration. Until we enforce our immigration laws equally against both employers and employees who break the law, we will continue to have a problem with immigration,’ (BNA Daily Labor Report, “Immigration: Federal Agents Arrest Nearly 400 During Worksite Enforcement Raid in Iowa,” 05/14/08).

Sharry continued, “While Agriprocessors seems to be on the verge of getting a free pass, 400 immigrant workers are being rounded up like cattle and ‘processed’ at the National Cattle Congress grounds in Waterloo, Iowa. Most if not all will be deported, and hundreds of families will be torn apart. This is not the way to reform our immigration system. The only solution is a combination of effective immigration and labor law enforcement and a process by which undocumented immigrants obtain legal status, full labor rights, and a chance to become citizens over time.”