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American Forum: Railroading immigrants ... and the Constitution

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By The Staff

Federal immigration officials swept into Postville, Iowa, in May and detained nearly 400 workers at a kosher meat processing plant. Swiftly, local enforcement and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency arrested, charged with crimes, extracted pleas and sentenced 297 of these individuals by the end of the following week.

Apparently, this shock-and-awe strategy was specially designed to drop the hammer on undocumented workers doing backbreaking jobs under reportedly sub-optimal conditions.

This new high-speed judicial railroad required extensive planning and coordination between the U.S. Attorneys’ office in Iowa, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Federal Judiciary.

The tracks laid down to carry this new enforcement train were designed to force rapid guilty pleas under the threat of serious jail time, avoid the inconvenience of trials, limit access to immigration counsel, eliminate the prospect of all future relief, and impose criminal sentences and removal orders simultaneously.

To speed the process up, the court-appointed attorneys were required to represent groups of 10-20 or more individuals, and more than 90 individuals were processed by the court in a single day.


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