[Marxism] Interpreting the Largest ICE Raid in U.S. History: A Personal Account by court interpreter

Mike Friedman mikedf at amnh.org
Tue Jul 15 11:18:22 MDT 2008




Erik Camayd-Freixas, Ph.D.
Florida International University
June 13, 2008

On Monday, May 12, 2008, at 10:00 a.m., in an operation involving some 900
agents, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed a raid of
Agriprocessors Inc, the nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse and meat
packing plant located in the town of Postville, Iowa. The raid
...officials boasted... was "the largest single-site operation of its kind
in American history." At=2 0that same hour, 26 federally certified
interpreters from all over the country were en route to the small
neighboring city of Waterloo, Iowa, having no idea what their mission was
about. The investigation had started more than a year earlier. Raid
preparations had begun in December. The Clerk's Office of the U.S.
District Court had contracted the interpreters a month ahead, but was not
at liberty to tell us the whole truth, lest the impending raid be
compromised. The operation was led by ICE, which belongs to the executive
branch, whereas the U.S. District Court, belonging to the judicial branch,
had to formulate its own official reason for participating. Accordingly,
the Court had to move for two weeks to a remote location as part of a
"Continuity of Operation Exercise" in case they were ever disrupted by an
emergency, which in Iowa is likely to be a tornado or flood. That is what
we were told, but, frankly, I was not prepared for a disaster of such a
different kind, one which was entirely man-made.

I arrived late that Monday night and missed the 8pm interpreters briefing.
I was instructed by phone to meet at 7am in the hotel lobby and carpool to
the National Cattle Congress (NCC) where we would begin our work. We
arrived at the heavily guarded compound, went through security, and
gathered inside the retro "Electric Park Ballroom" where a makeshift court
had b een set up. The Clerk of Court, who coordinated the interpreters,
said: "Have you seen the news? There was an immigration raid yesterday at
10am. They have some 400 detainees here. We'll be working late conducting
initial appearances for the next few days." He then gave us a cursory tour
of the compound. The NCC is a 60-acre cattle fairground that had been
transformed into a sort of concentration camp or detention center. Fenced
in behind the ballroom / courtroom were 23 trailers from federal
authorities, including two set up as sentencing courts; various Homeland
Security buses and an "incident response" truck; scores of ICE agents and
U.S. Marshals; and in the background two large buildings: a pavilion where
agents and prosecutors had established a command center; and a gymnasium
filled with tight rows of cots where some 300 male detainees were kept,
the women being housed in county jails. Later the NCC board complained to
the local newspaper that they had been "misled" by the government when
they leased the grounds purportedly for Homeland Security training.

Echoing what I think was the general feeling, one of my fellow
interpreters would later exclaim: "When I saw what it was really about, my
heart sank..."  Then began the saddest procession I have ever witnessed,
which the public would never see, because c ameras were not allowed past
the perimeter of the compound (only a few journalists came to court the
following days, notepad in hand). 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. They appeared to be uniformly no more
than 5 ft. tall, mostly illiterate Guatemalan peasants with Mayan last
names, some being relatives (various Tajtaj, Xicay, Sajché, Sologüí...),
some in tears; others with faces of worry, fear, and embarrassment.  They
all spoke Spanish, a few rather laboriously. It dawned on me that, aside
from their nationality, which was imposed on their people in the 19th
century, they too were Native Americans, in shackles. They stood out in
stark racial contrast with the rest of us as they started their slow
penguin march across the makeshift court. "Sad spectacle" I heard a
colleague say, reading my mind. They had all waived their right to be
indicted by a grand jury and accepted instead an information or simple
charging document by the U.S. Attorney, hoping to be quickly deported
since they had families to support back home. But it was not to be. They
were criminally charged with "aggravated identity theft" and "Social
Security fraud" ...charges they did not understand... and, frankly ,
neither could I.  Everyone wondered how it would all play out.



Interpreting the Largest ICE Raid in U.S. History: A Personal Account


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