Blog & Updates
This Week in Immigration En Español
May 18, 2009 - Posted by Katherine Vargas
Church gathering after Postville raid, May 17, 2008. Photo by Shuya Ohno
Immigration news en español commemorated the May 12th anniversary of the ICE raid on the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa. At the time, it was the largest workplace immigration raid in the history of our country — netting over 300 immigrant workers —and for many, a shameful example of enforcement policies gone bad: prioritizing the prosecution of workers and bread winners over the prosecution of criminal employers violating child labor and other labor laws.
The reintroduction of AgJOBS—legislation that will stabilize labor markets in the agriculture industry and provide a path to earned citizenship for eligible farm workers— also made the news. Articles described the reaction of groups who welcomed the reintroduction as an important part of the broad immigration reform debate to take place in Congress this year.
1. EFE: This article, titled “Faith groups and advocates ask for reform during the first anniversary of Postville raid”, looks at the humanitarian cost of the Agriprocessors raid and the collaborative work by immigrant rights and faith advocates to use Postville as an example of why it’s so urgent for Congress to reform our immigration system.
The Catholic Church and pro-immigrant advocates renewed their call for comprehensive immigration reform, on the eve of the first anniversary of Postville (Iowa) raid…
“We recognize and support the right and responsibility of the government to enforce its laws. Nevertheless, we strongly believe that raids do not fix our immigration challenges” said Bishop John C. Wester, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“It’s important that we use this date as an opportunity to signal a change in discourse on immigration, one that includes comprehensive reform and strong enforcement of our labor laws” said Mark Lauritsen, Vice President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union”.
Vigils and rallies have been scheduled in cities in many states including California, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, New Jersey, Tennessee, Missouri, Texas, and Washington, D.C.
—Iglesia y Activistas Piden Reforma, May 11, 2009
2. La Opinión: Good news also marked the end of this week, as newspapers reported that a year after the Postville raid, 20 former Agriprocessors workers received temporary legal status under a law that protects crime victims. La Opinión reports,
The first group of women and children arrested last year at the plant have been granted U-visas by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, allowing them to legally live and work in the country for four years. They can apply for green cards in the third year.
Sonia Parras-Konrad, an attorney involved in the case, said the visas are a big step in the search for justice and compensation for the immigrants. These people have been exploited, have been assaulted, have been humiliated, have been verbally and emotionally abused by this employer.”
—20 undocumented workers receive U visas in Iowa, May 16, 2009
3. La Opinion: An article reporting on the reintroduction of AgJOBS points to the new political context and the prospects of passage of this important legislation that would provide a pathway to legal status for undocumented farmworkers.
Yesterday, Republican and Democrats members of Congress introduced a new version of AgJOBS, a bill that if approved and signed by the President would allow for hundreds of thousands of farmworkers … to obtain work authorization and eventually permanent residency for them and their families.
A similar proposal died two years ago, in a Congress dominated by the Republican Party within a political climate marked by anti-immigrant hostility.
Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers said, “This is the third time we introduce this proposal but this time around there’s a good chance the bill be approved”. In addition to have a President that has pronounced his commitment to the Hispanic community to support immigration reform, soon the Senate will have a coveted filibuster proof Senate. The union labor leader highlighted that Republican Congress member Adam Putnam of Florida, who introduced the new AgJOBS bill in the House is a very influential legislator. “Up to now, Putnam has obtained the support of 7 members of the Republican party”.
—Presentan la Ley AgJOBS otra vez, May 15, 2009
Pressure is mounting for Congress to act and reform our obsolete laws. Lessons of the past have taught us that deportation-only policies have an intolerably high humanitarian and economic cost while doing little to resolve our immigration challenges. Congress is beginning to line up the fundamental elements of a comprehensive reform package and they will be counting on the American public to show strong support for common sense solutions to our immigration mess.