US: Government wages war on immigrants

The mostly-immigrant workers who toil in the nation’s meatpacking industry face many of the same dangerous conditions and stark exploitation as the immigrant meatpackers depicted in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle 100 years ago.

On May 12, the largest single immigration raid in U.S. history took place in the tiny town of Postville, Iowa, home to the Agriprocessors Kosher meatpacking plant. During the raid, the feds issued 700 warrants and made nearly 400 arrests. The 700 displaced workers represented 75% of the Agriprocessors workforce and a full third of the town’s residents.
As in previous raids, this one resulted in the separation of families. Fathers and husbands were sent to jails, mothers were clapped with house-arrest anklets, and babies and children were threatened with being separated from one or both parents.
The aftermath of the raid will likely be another lesson in the class system. While some managers might be prosecuted for minor offenses, the actual owners are very unlikely to be touched. Can you imagine the feds arresting CEOs and stockholders or confiscating the profits of companies like Agriprocessors, which was forcing workers as young as 15 to work six days per week, 12 hours per day, with no overtime pay?
An impressive protest of 1,000 locals and out-of town supporters marched through Postville (a town of 2,200) on July 27. Workers are calling for immigration reform, providing legal status to undocumented immigrants so they can defend their rights against giant corporations like Agriprocessors.
As Irma, a Guatemalan worker arrested in the raids, said, “We come here by necessity. I ask you to help us. We’re not criminals. We’re workers” (, 7/27/08).


1 Response to “US: Government wages war on immigrants”

  1. 1 Joe August 29, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    As an electrician I see more and more Latinos in the construction industry. They often have overstayed their visa and have been separated from family. I understand and have sympathy for the hard working people with good intentions. This does not change the fact that they are sticking with contractors, and moving onto larger projects. The contractors who built a home with underpaid undocumented workers, are now building the homeowners business. We begin to see ourselves working without proper safety and even port-a-johns. The things that we have fought for are slipping away. Our commutes grow further and our lay-offs longer. We sometimes become undocumented employees ourselves by a system that forces us to work for cash while collecting unemployment. The CEO’s should share a jail cell with their undocumented employees. Companies that promote labor violations should be treated like the criminals they are. Only then will the border be secure and labor be treated with dignity.

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