This week I decided to select three Latino Legislators of the Week. On Saturday, Reps. Joe Baca (D-CA), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Albio Sires (D-NJ) met with the members of the Postville community at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church to discuss the recent immigration raids in the small Iowa community.
The Congressmen heard three hours of informal testimony describing the unjust tactics used by federal agents in the May raid at the Agriprocessors Meat Plant, the country’s largest Kosher meatpacking plant, in which almost 400 arrests were made.
The testimony became emotional as women described how their husbands had been detained, minors working in horrendous conditions, and the overall impact on families and the community at large.
I’m hopeful that Congressmen Baca, Gutierrez, and Sires will act upon the testimony that they heard and do everything they can to stop the immigration raids. As is evidenced in the Postville, IA community, these raids do not work and only place blame on these victims of economic turmoil instead of the large businesses that hire them.
More than 300 of the people arrested in the raids were convicted of criminal aggravated identity theft, which requires one to knowingly steal a person’s identity for personal such as to run up credit. Congressman Gutierrez stated that many of the immigrants who were arrested were likely illiterate and could not have knowingly used someone else’s identity. Usually, undocumented immigrants are charged with a noncriminal offense and are deported.
Sometimes our leaders need to make personal appearances in places where our community feels pain. Congressmen Baca, Gutierrez, and Sires don’t represent Postville, Iowa, but they represent areas with substantial immigrant populations who are subject to experiencing similar ICE enforcement actions. Hopefully, this visit will help these men become more forceful advocates for just immigration reform.
On Sunday, there was a rally spearheaded by the Jewish Community Action group of St. Paul, Minnesota to draw attention to the situation in Postville. The Jewish Community Action, led by Vic Rosenthal, was joined by other groups from Chicago and Wisconsin. Again, we witness another positive Jewish-Latino coalition building opportunity, which I think is great, but I wonder if any of the national Latino rights organizations sent any representatives to Postville this past weekend. Perhaps one of my readers will know.
Photo Credit: WCFCourier.com, Jens Manuel Korgstad