[Marxism] The shame of Postville
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
"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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