July 14, 2008

New York Times, constitutional attorney decry Postville raid

New York…Two months after nearly 1,000 federal, state and local agents raided Agriprocessors (May 12th) in Postville, comes a chorus of voices questioning the legality and morality of the raid itself. The New York Times in an editorial yesterday (July 13th) “The Shame of Postville, Iowa” took the unusual step of quoting an essay by Erik Camayd-Freixas describing the cruel manner in which the undocumented workers were treated during the raid. His essay includes the writer’s description of “the saddest procession I have ever witnessed, which the public would never see (because the cameras were hidden).” According to the Times, “No one is denying that the workers were on the wrong side of the law. But there is a profound difference between stealing people’s identities to rob them of money and property, and using false papers to merely get a job.”

In fact, even the affidavit that was used as justification for the raid pointed out that Agriprocessors meticulously checked documents that the immigrants also used to register their children in schools and obtain credit cards from the banks. Nathan Lewin, a Washington DC constitutional expert called the Agriprocessors raid "selective enforcement." He argued that no other single-site meatpacker has been raided and that no other relatively small employer (i.e., one who is unable to put in the expensive checking systems that Tyson and Swift and other huge employers have put in since criminal enforcement began) that has any screening system whatsoever has, to my knowledge, been raided, and that no other raided employer has had an incendiary series of uncorroborated and demonstrably false allegations made by one unhappy employee or by biased news reports included in an affidavit deliberately (and unusually) released to the public by ICE. Lewin opined that Agriprocessors was singled out after the Feds reasoned that there would be no major support for them.

According to the Times piece, “Court interpreters are normally impartial participants and keep their opinions to themselves.” But Dr. Camayd-Freixas, a professor of Spanish at Florida International University, said he was so offended by the cruelty of the prosecutions that he felt compelled to break his silence. “A line was crossed at Postville,” he wrote.

Ironically, no major Jewish source, including those that have been on a relentless attack against the kosher meat giant, has echoed the concern of The Times over the treatment of the workers by the government. This obvious double standard behavior by an isolated number of leftist Jewish organizations and the media is what is causing such indignation amongst the core supporters and customers of Agriprocessors. With the withdrawal of the boycott by Uri L’Tzedek, a modern Orthodox Jewish group, only the UFCW, some extreme left elements and a smattering of Conservative rabbis promoting a new Hekhsher Tzedek remain as antagonists of Agriprocessors. Its chief architect, Rabbi Morris Allen of Twin Cities, Minneapolis, has never commented on the issues raised in the Times editorial. In fact, the antagonists have constantly focused on side issues, such as the hiring by a recruitment firm of several homeless people and a major gaffe by a PR agency hired by Agriprocessors which had nothing to do with the company itself. Now even the New York Times, which can hardly be described as a conservative mouthpiece, has come forward to tell the truth. Now if only the Forward would come forward.