Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Whatever you did to the least of these...
Federal immigration agents raided a meat processing plant in Iowa on Monday, arresting almost 400 undocumented immigrants and inflicting hardship, fear, and suffering on numerous families who would be considered among the poorest of the poor in this country. It's no secret that I oppose our current immigration policies (I say let anyone in who wants to come); but what really irks me about this situation is that the targets were only the hardworking immigrants who had come to this plant for a job to support their families and improve their lives. You can bet that the hundreds of people chained up like animals, crammed into local jails or bused over an hour away to be held at a fairgrounds, are not the wealthy, probably white, executives and managers of this processing plant who hired these workers and exploited their desperation for the sake of cheap labor in the first place.

I agree with Iowa Governor Chet Culver who was quoted as saying: "Illegal means illegal, not just those who are crossing the border illegally but those who are responsible for helping to make it happen." He insisted that both illegal immigrants and companies that knowingly hire them should be prosecuted. Personally I'd be happy if only the latter group were punished since I'm not down with adding even more suffering into the lives of already desperate people. Why do we only punish those who are already being exploited and not those doing the exploiting?

The ACLU raised additional concerns recently on behalf of the immigrants. Said Ben Stone of the Iowa ACLU:
"It appears that detainees are not receiving adequate time to meet with their lawyers, and that defense attorneys are being overwhelmed by requests to represent far more clients than is advisable -- or perhaps even ethical. We are concerned that the sheer size of this raid is likely to result in numerous violations of the U.S. Constitution, which protects the due process rights of all persons in this country."
The AP article also notes that many of the immigrants turned first to the church for help.
Sister Mary McCauley, a Roman Catholic nun at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in Postville, said family members of plant workers came to the nearby church in tears after immigration agents arrived in buses, vans and two helicopters.

“The people right now are hearing and seeing the helicopters,” McCauley said Monday morning. “They are just panic-stricken and very frightened and some of them are coming to the church as a safe haven.”

It's encouraging to see the church step into this compassion gap left by our government. This is where we ought to be as followers of Christ - standing with the poor and rejected against the powers and principalities of this world.

For more on the human cost of this raid, click here, here and here.

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posted by Mike Clawson at 2:21 PM | Permalink |


At 5/14/2008 04:24:00 PM, Blogger D

I've often wondered if the church's proper response to this would be to set up something akin to the Underground Railroad and safehouses. There was a story awhile back about a church that did that, but not sure what happened to them.

If we flip the Parable of the Bridesmaids on its heads, then the wise bridesmaids are acting alot like immigration officers, barring the door to those who have searched and worked so hard to get where they are.


At 5/14/2008 05:37:00 PM, Anonymous Andrew

But wait. Who made these individuals come to America? Were they forced? And, if you were to say that poor economic conditions in their respective country drove them to America, then why is it America's fault? Shouldn't blame rest more evenly on the failed economy of Mexico? Did they or did they not consciously break a law by entering the US illegally? I guess a position like yours is easy to hold when you place the blame on the shoulders of the white man.

Sympathetic liberal sentiment is a nice band to wear around your shoulder, but the fact remains regardless of the images photographers put forth: these individuals broke the law.

Would you call the Cops on an individual who willfully broke into your home to steal some food?

Trust me, I'm no friend of conservatives either, but I'm ALSO for legal entry.


At 5/14/2008 07:38:00 PM, Blogger Amy G

Andrew, please read my post on entering the US legally. You will see that none of the workers arrested in this raid would have qualified to EVER enter the US legally.

I'm also not a fan of people entering the US illegally, but at the same time, I live in Mexico. This country has been doomed from its formation to consist of a monied, privileged, elite class that dominates all areas of government, economic activity, and education. Those on top in Mexico benefit greatly from keeping the masses repressed, uneducated, and sending remittances home from the US.

A poor person in this country has no recourse unless there was ever to be a second Mexican Revolution, and that would be violent, bloody, and quickly quashed by the US government who benefits considerably from the current conditions in Mexico.

In other words, if you are born poor here, moving to the US is the best thing you can do for your family. While breaking US law is terrible, US immigration law itself is ridiculous. It must change. However, I doubt that's going to happen until the US feels much more secure economically.

My greatest encouragement is the surge in support and activism I've noticed in communities of faith. I am so proud that there are people who see that our faith compels us to find a solution and offer immediate assistance to those living in this awful situation!


At 5/14/2008 10:21:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Andrew, when it's a matter of helping the poor and oppressed, I don't give a damn what the laws of America are or whether they were broken. God's law of caring for the needs of real human beings come before any man-made law in my book.

And what did I say about it being "America's" fault? I was quite clear about blaming the owners of that processing plant for exploiting people in the first place. Or are you unconcerned about the ways in which they also broke the law?

"Would you call the Cops on an individual who willfully broke into your home to steal some food?"

No, of course I wouldn't. I would give them the food gladly and probably some money too.

"Trust me, I'm no friend of conservatives either, but I'm ALSO for legal entry."

So am I. Which is why I think we should be letting everyone who wants to enter legally. The obvious solution to ending illegal immigration is to make it legal for anyone to immigrate.


At 5/15/2008 12:17:00 AM, Blogger Julie

And, if you were to say that poor economic conditions in their respective country drove them to America, then why is it America's fault? Shouldn't blame rest more evenly on the failed economy of Mexico?

Study economics. US policy, subsidies, and a little thing called NAFTA are what brought ruin to many parts of Mexico. People who lived as their ancestors lived off the land were forced off that land and yes that was America's fault.


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