Nearly four hundred immigrant workers were corralled into the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo, Iowa as a part of the now-infamous immigration raid that took place in Postville, Iowa, last year. Bloggers covered the story of communities that donned red ribbons and rang church bells in remembrance of the raid yesterday, and we reflect on Postville’s lessons.
“The Postville raid has become a nationwide symbol of what is wrong with our current immigration policy and previous immigration enforcement priorities. While the government’s actions in the Agriprocessors raid showed an ugly side of America that I hardly recognize, the response of the Postville community and its neighbors showed the compassion and humanity that represents the best of America,” said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice. Next Tuesday, the first anniversary of the 2008 Postville raid, more than forty churches and faith community organizations in more than twenty states are hosting commemoration vigils to remember the raid at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant.
In his 100 Days press conference last evening, President Obama reiterated his pledge to make immigration reform a Year One priority. Responding to a question from Lori Montenegro of Telemundo, Obama said: “We want to move this process. We can’t continue with a broken immigration system. It’s not good for anybody. It’s not good for American workers. It’s dangerous for Mexican would-be workers who are trying to cross a dangerous border.
Note: This is a new weekly feature by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger. The dialogue on immigration has, historically, been contentious and cyclical. There are times when hysteria peaks, and rational thought struggles to enter the national dialogue. There are also moments of truth. This week, independent media debunked many myths about the undocumented and made the case for the positive impact of immigrants in the US, including the positive effect of legalizing the undocumented on the economy and how citizens are holding elected representatives accountable for votes against pro-immigrant measures.
Well, yesterday was a new day. Yesterday’s news that organized labor has joined forces to push for comprehensive reform highlights the important link between comprehensive immigration reform, the economy, and worker protection. As the New York Times argued so succinctly yesterday: Even in a bad economy – especially in a bad economy – getting undocumented immigrants on the right side of the law only makes sense.
“Congress must address the broken immigration system to get more workers and more employers onto the tax rolls and restore fairness to our labor market. We need a program that requires undocumented workers to come out of the shadows, undergo a background check, pay their back taxes, and get right with the law,” said Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice. “We also need strong regulation and enforcement against employers who continue to go around the legal system in order to avoid taxes or pay lower wages. As yesterday’s labor announcement shows, comprehensive immigration reform is the right approach for our economy and the right approach for America,” she concluded.
“This is a dramatic breakthrough that greatly improves the chances of enacting comprehensive immigration reform this year. It points to the fact that reform is good for workers, good for honest employers who are undercut by unscrupulous competitors, good for taxpayers, and good for the rule of law. “Comprehensive immigration reform will lift wages by creating a level playing field. It will generate revenues by ensuring that all workers and employers pay their fair share of taxes. And it will restore the rule of law to our borders and our workplaces. “Today’s announcement reveals the lie to the anti-immigrant argument that comprehensive immigration reform is bad for American workers.