Regarding Immigration Reform
Worldwide concern over the swine flu has captured headlines across the globe. The efforts of some to use this health crisis to further anti-immigrant policies and agendas is deplorable. Legitimate concern over the outbreak of flu in Mexico is being used as an excuse to continue spreading the racist fear and hatred of immigrants that was evident during national debates about immigration reform some time ago. Meanwhile, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducts raids across the land, tearing families apart.
Just a year ago, on May 12, 2009, ICE agents arrested 389 people at Agriprocessors, the local kosher meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa. At the time, this was the largest raid in the history of the United States, changing the lives of many in the town. The plant could not replace all the detained workers and, therefore, shut down. Many were left unemployed. One-third of the Postville community fled overnight, leaving houses and businesses vacant and fifty empty desks at the local school. For a week following the raid, traumatized families slept in St. Bridget’s Church, afraid to return to their homes.
Seventy-five percent of the plant’s employees were undocumented workers who lacked protections. These workers were exploited, underpaid and, in some cases, sexually abused. The process for trying detained workers was hasty and unfair. Translators did not inform workers of their full charges and lawyers had only a few hours to try to help the workers. They were tried in groups at the local cattle fairground.
Does all this look like America? Obviously we have a broken immigration system and innocent people are paying the price. Even as I write this, there is a bill before the Colorado Legislature, “Senate Joint memorial 09” (SJM09) requesting local communities to involve their police forces in the work of ICE.
Fortunately, President Obama has committed to comprehensive immigration reform in 2009. Three areas are particularly urgent:
Families must not be separated.
There must be a path to citizenship for those who have lived and worked here for years.
Temporary workers must be protected by fair and enforceable laws.
On May 12, many churches and community leaders across the country will participate in a Day of Remembrance and Action to mark the first anniversary of the raid in Postville. People of faith will ring church bells, hold prayer vigils and wear red ribbons to bear witness to the devastating impact of raids and unfair practices that terrorize the lives of our brothers and sisters, people who live and work among us.
Please join in the effort to make a difference by contacting the President and encouraging him to move forward with immigration reform.
The White House number is: 1-202-456-1111.