[Marxism] The shame of Postville

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Jul 13 07:54:56 MDT 2008

The essay by Erik Camayd-Freixas referred to below can be read at:


NY Times, July 13, 2008
The Shame of Postville, Iowa

Anyone who has doubts that this country is abusing and terrorizing 
undocumented immigrant workers should read an essay by Erik 
Camayd-Freixas, a professor and Spanish-language court interpreter 
who witnessed the aftermath of a huge immigration workplace raid at a 
meatpacking plant in Iowa.

The essay chillingly describes what Dr. Camayd-Freixas saw and heard 
as he translated for some of the nearly 400 undocumented workers who 
were seized by federal agents at the Agriprocessors kosher plant in 
Postville in May.

Under the old way of doing things, the workers, nearly all 
Guatemalans, would have been simply and swiftly deported. But in a 
twist of Dickensian cruelty, more than 260 were charged as serious 
criminals for using false Social Security numbers or residency 
papers, and most were sentenced to five months in prison.

What is worse, Dr. Camayd-Freixas wrote, is that the system was 
clearly rigged for the wholesale imposition of mass guilt. He said 
the court-appointed lawyers had little time in the raids' hectic 
aftermath to meet with the workers, many of whom ended up waiving 
their rights and seemed not to understand the complicated charges against them.

Dr. Camayd-Freixas's essay describes "the saddest procession I have 
ever witnessed, which the public would never see" — because cameras 
were forbidden.

"Driven single-file in groups of 10, shackled at the wrists, waist 
and ankles, chains dragging as they shuffled through, the 
slaughterhouse workers were brought in for arraignment, sat and 
listened through headsets to the interpreted initial appearance, 
before marching out again to be bused to different county jails, only 
to make room for the next row of 10."

He wrote that they had waived their rights in hopes of being quickly 
deported, "since they had families to support back home." He said 
that they did not understand the charges they faced, adding, "and, 
frankly, neither could I."

No one is denying that the workers were on the wrong side of the law. 
But there is a profound difference between stealing people's 
identities to rob them of money and property, and using false papers 
to merely get a job. It is a distinction that the Bush 
administration, goaded by immigration extremists, has willfully 
ignored. Deporting unauthorized workers is one thing; sending 
desperate breadwinners to prison, and their families deeper into 
poverty, is another.

Court interpreters are normally impartial participants and keep their 
opinions to themselves. But Dr. Camayd-Freixas, a professor of 
Spanish at Florida International University, said he was so offended 
by the cruelty of the prosecutions that he felt compelled to break 
his silence. "A line was crossed at Postville," he wrote. 

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