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May 24, 2008

Swift Justice After Postville Raids

Out of 389 people captured at the Agriprocessors plant, 270 have been sentenced to five months imprisonment for fraudulent use of documents to procure work authorization. Those are just the criminal proceedings. The whole bunch will be removed after they've served their sentences.

Why so fast?

The unusually swift proceedings, in which 297 immigrants pleaded guilty and were sentenced in four days, were criticized by criminal defense lawyers, who warned of violations of due process. Twenty-seven immigrants received probation. The American Immigration Lawyers Association protested that the workers had been denied meetings with immigration lawyers and that their claims under immigration law had been swept aside in unusual and speedy plea agreements.

The illegal immigrants, most from Guatemala, filed into the courtrooms in groups of 10, their hands and feet shackled. One by one, they entered guilty pleas through a Spanish interpreter, admitting they had taken jobs using fraudulent Social Security cards or immigration documents. Moments later, they moved to another courtroom for sentencing.

The illegals (note my shock that the N.Y. Times doesn't bother with any euphemisms) were offered the opportunity to plead guilty on these lesser charges. Those that refused were told they would be prosecuted for aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory two-year minimum sentence.

"Catch and release" is being replaced with a zero-tolerance policy aimed at punishing illegal immigrants for criminal violations in addition to imposing the usual civil immigration penalties. The criminal sentences will at least break up the usual cycle wherein an illegal is caught, ordered removed, brought to the other side of the border around noon, and is resting comfortably back at home by evening. I suspect this bunch thought that they'd do just that; many initially claimed to be from Mexico (when in fact they are largely from Guatemala) so as to make the trip back easier.

More prosecutions may be pending:

No charges have been brought against managers or owners at Agriprocessors, but there were indications that prosecutors were also preparing a case against the company. In pleading guilty, immigrants had to agree to cooperate with any investigation.

Also, a story came out of the Jewish press yesterday about possible grand jury proceedings related to Agriprocessors.

It is unclear whether Wahls has been called as a witness or as a potential target of a government investigation. A spokesperson for the Northern Iowa U.S. Attorney's Office would neither confirm or deny that a grand jury has been convened in connection with the Postville raid.

"The obvious thing to say is that they're building a case against the Rubashkins themselves," said Marc Stern, general counsel to the American Jewish Congress.

An R.W. was named in the original government affidavit that laid the legal groundwork for last week's raid at Agriprocessors, which netted 389 illegal immigrants. R.W. is alleged to have carried an envelope of cash with which he paid undocumented Agiprocessors employees.

Wahls told the Des Moines Register that he is probably the R.W. named in the affidavit.

Agriprocessors, its owners, and its managers will likely face prosecution for multiple violations of environmental and labor laws in addition to immigration-related crimes.

More: Alice H. sends along "Agriprocessors, A Blight on The Land." It has some interesting information on the kosher meat company, but may be even more informative for readers wanting to know more about the immigration process in general.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 11:51 PM

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