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A different perspective on the recent immigration raids

December 18, 2006

After unsuccessfully trying to find news in English about the recent immigration raids at meat-processing plants that described the real number of those illegal immigrants charged with identity theft (only 5% of the 1200 arrests made) and that also touched on the effect of these raids on their families, here is my translation of the news I found in Spanish. I have also added a few links of news and blogs that are discussing the immigration issue.

Source: Univisión

Raids lead to more than 1200 arrests

WASHINGTON–More than 1200 workers at various meat-processing plants at six different states were arrested during raids described by federal authorities as the largest operation in US history against illegal immigrants at the workplace.

Many Latin-Americans

The arrested workers proceed from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Peru, Laos, Sudan, Ethiopia, and other countries.

The Secretary of Interior, Michael Chertoff, declared on Wednesday that the investigation that lasted several months revealed a “disturbing front” in the war against illegal immigration, since many of the undocumented use the identity of US citizens or legal residents in order to work.

“The violations against our immigration laws and of the right to privacy frequently go hand in hand,” Chertoff affirmed. “Actions in defense of the law such as these protect the rights of privacy of innocent Americans in addition to tackling illegal immigration.”

The raids at the Swift & Co. plants in six states concluded with 1282 arrests, including 1217 under arrest for violating immigration laws and 65 for criminal charges such as identity theft.

Falsified Documents

Chertoff said that the investigation continues against many of the illegal organizations that sold the false documents to the illegal immigrants.

Outside of the fence that surrounds the meat-processing plant in Greeley, Colorado, Tony Garcia, denounced the way in which the Federal Immigration agents have shocked Hispanic families.

“We need help… we need answers,” he screamed. Garcia said to be concerned for the children whose parents were arrested at Greeley’s plant. “Who is going to pick them up?” Garcia asked.

The arrests were made at six plants that had to temporarily suspend their operations. In addition to the plant at Greeley, other plants raided were those at Grand Island, Nebraska; Cactus, Texas; Hyrum, Utah; Marshalltown, Iowa, and Worthington, Minnesota, where all of Swift’s cattle production takes place as well as 77% of their pork meat production.

Identity Theft

The raids followed a 10-month-long investigation focused on suspects of entering the country illegally and who would have also bought or stolen the identity of other people in order to ensure jobs in the US.

The criminal organization and its clients could have affected hundreds of US citizens and legal residents, authorities said.

Supporters for a more strict immigration control praised the operation.

“I am glad that federal authorities are applying our immigration laws given the illegal immigration crisis we face in this country,” said Colorado’s Republican Senator Wayne Allard in a statement.

Criticism

Others criticized the arrests and their effect on the families of those who were arrested.

“They are taking mothers and fathers. We are very worried about the children,” said Fr. Clarence Sandoval, from the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Logan, Utah. “I’m receiving calls from mothers who tell me that they don’t know where their husbands have been taken.”

In Mexico, the Department of International Affairs informed in a written statement that their consuls in the US had been ordered to ask the authorities to guarantee their access to the Mexicans held in custody.

“Consular personnel has instructions to make individual interviews with each person that has been affected by these raids and in all other cases to ensure that their human rights have been respected during this process and to bring the assistance, orientation, and consular protection, without sparing efforts,” added the press release.

See also:

Bishop labels meat-plant raids as ‘inhuman’
Gerald at “The Cafeteria is Closed” calls the USCCB the “Democratic Party at Prayer” and says “I just wouldn’t go to the USCCB for a well-balanced approach to the [immigration] matter.”

Nobody is condoning the identity theft crimes, but do note that it was only 5% of these people who were charged with this crime, while the rest were only charged with violating immigration laws.

To talk about illegal immigration without taking into account its human dimension is to talk about abortion without touching on the baby’s inalienable right to life. The heart of this issue is at how these enforcement-only policies are separating families and violating their basic human rights. Some ask, “how is arresting those who violate the law a violation of human rights?” Well, very simple. Many of these people are working illegally in order to support their family’s basic needs, because otherwise their children wouldn’t be able to eat or go to school. And some would respond: “But the laws prohibit illegal immigrants from working!” Have we stopped to think that the laws may be the ones that are wrong instead? And that these people are working, because that is their last resort to survive?

As immigration activist Jay Johnson-Castro points out:

“In every other part of the world, when there are refugees migrating from one
nation to another because of their adverse conditions, we send them millions of
dollars to help the refugees. In this country, we send them to jail.”

Some Catholics want evidence and proofs as to how current immigration laws are violating human rights and how future policies with an enforcement-only approach would be further doing this. Again, very simple. Whenever there are children separated from their parents, because they were only trying to provide for them, there is a violation of the fundamental right that families have that supersede the State.

As a Christian, when I know a mother or a father who cannot provide food and security to their family and I know they just want to work in order to meet these basic needs, how can I turn around and tell them: “Go back to your country and figure it out over there. It’s your country’s fault anyway. Not ours.” The Holy Family had to flee to Egypt as well, so I would highly doubt that Jesus would also tell them to go away.

It’s not about violating the laws. As Catholics, we plead for new and comprehensive immigration laws that can treat these families justly.

I think that “I am Becoming all that I am” blog has summarized my thoughts when she posted this picture and this caption.

And at some point you have to ask yourself, would Jesus hold the sign below?

I would like to think not.

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