Leaders of religious and labor groups joined together today to call for the government to change its immigration policy in the wake of the May 12th raid Agriprocessors plant in Postville. Rosalind Spigel, the acting director of the Jewish Labor Committee, says Agriprocessors is an example of the way labor and immigration laws are routinely violated in the U.S.
"This isn’t just new because it has been happening at Agriprocessors for the last couple of years, I mean this goes back, you know over 100 years in this country, where employers violate workers and workers rights and they are not held accountable and responsible in the way that workers are held accountable and responsible," Spigel says.
Spigel says the immigration violations are a small part of a bigger problem. Spigel says along with enforcing the immigration laws, the government should also enforce the labor standards, the health and safety codes, the environmental regulations, sexual harassment laws, child labor laws. "In the opinion of the Jewish Labor Committee, the enforcement of these measures should have come first," Spigel says.
The pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Postville, Reverend Steve Brackett, says he can’t understand why multiple charges weren’t filed against Agriprocessors. Brackett says 389 people were arrested, and over 300 of them were illegally in the country, so that should be over 300 counts of violation of federal law against the company.
Instead, Brackett says each of the people in the country illegally faced individual charges. Brackett says those people are hauled away and deported, completely uprooting their lives, and the employer that hired them see no consequences.
"And we’ve seen that time and time again in the raids that have happened, that maybe a person or two working for that company is arrested and charged with something," Brackett says, "but for the most part the companies themselves face no consequences beyond the lost of production." Brackett says the loss of production can cost the company millions of dollars, but there’s no incentive to stop the illegal hiring practices.