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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Butchering Statutes: the Postville Raid and the Misinterpretation of Federal Law

On Monday, May 12, 2008, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement led an immigration raid at the Agriprocessors, Inc. meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. The local U.S. Attorney's Office pursued criminal complaints against approximately 300 migrant workers. The raid at Postville remains the nation's largest criminal immigration raid. I aim to provide a detailed and accurate account of the investigation of Agriprocessors, the raid, the criminal prosecutions, the sentencings and the aftermath. In so doing, I argue that a confluence of factors explain the number of individuals arrested and the accelerated criminal proceedings.

I describe how the investigation of Agriprocessors led to the raid and criminal prosecutions. I show that the defendants, though not technically coerced, were the victims of systemic coercion. Such systemic coercion produced prompt resolutions of their cases, which propelled the guilty pleas and sentencings.
I then argue that the accelerated process was premised upon two flawed interpretations of federal law, without which the guilty pleas and removal orders could not have been achieved. First, the USAO employed section1028A(a)(1) of Title 18, aggravated identity theft, which imposes a two-year mandatory, consecutive sentence to any defendant convicted under it, to leverage expedited plea agreements. [Peter Moyers] [Mark Godsey]

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