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Prosecuting the Powerless in Postville

Excerpt from New York Times Editorial (Aug. 1, 2008).

The harsh prosecution [of workers] at Postville is an odd and cruel shift for the Bush administration, which for years had voiced compassion for exploited workers and insisted that immigration had to be fixed comprehensively or not at all.

Now it has abandoned mercy and proportionality. It has devised new and harsher traps, as in Postville, to prosecute the weak and the poor. It has increased the fear and desperation of workers who are irresistible to bottom-feeding businesses precisely because they are fearful and desperate. By treating illegal low-wage workers as a de facto criminal class, the government is trying to inflate the menace they pose to a level that justifies its rabid efforts to capture and punish them. That is a fraudulent exercise, and a national disgrace.

Note: The only thing we quibble with is the editorial board’s use of the word “now” and the allegation that Postville marks a “shift” from previously compassionate federal immigration enforcement. We invite the editors to hang around here and read up on what’s been going down in Texas –gm:


On second thought, maybe the New York Times should have been paying more attention to what’s been going on in Brooklyn. Here’s a clip from New York Magazine about a young immigrant named Rasha and her family, and what happened to them in 2002:

“They learned that they’d all be going to a facility in New Jersey, except for Wassim, who was under 18 and thus bound for a juvenile-detention center in Pennsylvania. Being split up was a fresh horror. Through her own waterlogged eyes, Rasha watched her family collapse in tears.

“At the jail in Bergen County, Rasha and her mother and sister were strip-searched and photographed before being taken to a filthy and overcrowded holding area. Everybody seemed nasty or catatonic. This is just like prison on television, Rasha thought. A corrections officer opened the door and told them to get inside. The door locked behind them.

“After six hours, they were herded into another holding cell, teeming with even more people, where they would stay for two days. Rasha’s mother raged and yelled until she was able to place a call to her brother-in-law about her youngest sons. Rasha, Reem, and their mother were eventually moved again, to a larger wing of the facility, where they were again strip-searched, then given beige jumpsuits and black-and-white Converse-style shoes and assigned to cells. The INS official who had told them at Federal Plaza that they would be deported within days was clearly wrong. When they joined the general population, Rasha realized with dread, they were going to stay for a while.”

From “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem? Being Young and Arab in America,” by Moustafa Bayoumi (forthcoming from Penguin Press).

By mopress

Writer, Editor, Social Democrat

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