Saturday, May 24, 2008
N.Y. Times: Waterloo, Iowa — In temporary courtrooms at a fairgrounds here, 270 illegal immigrants were sentenced this week to five months in prison for working at a meatpacking plant with false documents.
The prosecutions, which ended Friday, signal a sharp escalation in the Bush administration’s crackdown on illegal workers, with prosecutors bringing tough federal criminal charges against most of the immigrants arrested in a May 12 raid. Until now, unauthorized workers have generally been detained by immigration officials for civil violations and rapidly deported.
The convicted immigrants were among 389 workers detained at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in nearby Postville in a raid that federal officials called the largest criminal enforcement operation ever carried out by immigration authorities at a workplace.
Matt M. Dummermuth, the United States attorney for northern Iowa, who oversaw the prosecutions, called the operation an “astonishing success.”
Claude Arnold, a special agent in charge of investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said it showed that federal officials were “committed to enforcing the nation’s immigration laws in the workplace to maintain the integrity of the immigration system.”
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.
Continue reading article. [Brooks Holland]