National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America

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Raids and Rough Treatment

May 19, 2008 - Posted by Douglas Rivlin

Over the weekend and today, a number of opinion columnists and editorial pages have begun to look more closely at the twin stories from last week – the raids and detention conditions expose – and what they tell us about the state of America’s immigration system.  Here are a few examples.


The Washington Post editorial page Saturday, under the clever headline “Detention Deficit,” recounted some of the most egregious highlights of the Post’s series, concluding:


Human error cannot always be avoided, but continuing to underfund and understaff the medical care system for these detainees only increases the chances of an unnecessary tragedy. The law requires that those in U.S. custody be given adequate treatment. Simple decency demands no less. (link)


New York Daily News columnist Albor Ruiz dedicated his Sunday column to the detention “scandal” saying in part:


The human rights scandal that immigration has become gets worse with every new revelation of official abuse, neglect and lack of accountability…Over the last couple of weeks, it has become clear that the scandal goes beyond the raids that terrorize thousands of immigrant families, or the hodgepodge of local - and often racist - anti-immigrant laws that have emerged after Congress failed to pass a rational immigration law. – “Immigration’s Human Rights Shame Is Now Moral Crisis


Although some national media (link, link, link, and link) have begun to focus on the immense impact of ICE’s Postville raid, it has been those closest to the action in Iowa that have been paying the most attention.  For example, the Dubuque Telegraph Herald’s editorial page asked Friday what will happen to the employer:


This is a broken system. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials are trying to enforce the laws in the wake of Congress’ utter failure to reform the country’s immigration policy….But enforcement must extend to the employers who exploit undocumented workers. At Agriprocessors, we are not talking about a worker or two who sneaked into a job. We are talking about nearly half the employer’s work force. In the case of Agriprocessors, the undercover source even witnessed at least one incident of physical abuse against a worker. Yet the focus of the sweep has been to gather up illegal workers, not to investigate the company. – “Agriprocessors should face charges as well


And finally, the last word goes to the Des Moines Register editorial page, which made the connection between our broken immigration system, the critical need for reform, and the massive raid in nearby Postville:


It’s time to look at immigration reform as more than a political problem. It’s an economic and a social problem, as Postville illustrates. The U.S. work force needs the labor of new immigrants as it faces a shortage with baby-boomer retirements. The country needs the vitality that new immigrants bring to communities…The nation needs higher, realistic immigration quotas to meet work-force demands. It needs a flexible guest-worker program. It needs a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are otherwise in good standing… Then there would be less need for raids like the one in Postville. – “Raid a reminder of need for reform


As unfortunate as these raids are, perhaps they will focus more people on the need for reform so that we can prevent the type of disruption we are seeing in Iowa and the type of shameful detention standards we see every week.

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