‘I'm Not Dangerous'

The past six months have seen three of the largest workplace immigration raids in U.S. history. In May, the rural Iowa town of Postville was convulsed when 900 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents stormed a kosher meatpacking plant and arrested 389 workers. In August, ICE agents descended on an electrical equipment factory near Laurel, Mississippi, detaining nearly 600 workers. And in October, the scene was repeated in Greenville, South Carolina, where 330 workers were swept up at a chicken-processing plant.

The humanitarian costs of the raids, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Migration, were “immeasurable and unacceptable in a civilized society.” Children were separated from their parents for days. Those arrested were not immediately afforded the rights of due process. And local communities were, in the words of John C. Wester, bishop of Salt Lake City and chairman of the Committee on Migration, “disrupted and dislocated.” These raids, he said, “strike immigrant communities unexpectedly, leaving the affected immigrant families to cope in the aftermath. Husbands are separated from their wives, and children are separated from their parents. Many families never recover; others never reunite.”

The bishop called on the Department of Homeland Security, of which ICE is an agency, on President George W. Bush, and on then-candidates...

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About the Author

Danny Postel is communications coordinator for Interfaith Worker Justice, a national network based in Chicago that mobilizes faith communities to improve conditions for low-wage workers. He has written for the American Prospect, the Guardian, the Nation, and other publications.