Please call on President Obama and U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder to order a comprehensive Department of Justice (D.O.J) investigation into the Postville Prosecutions.
Never in the history of the United States have there been federal prosecutions conducted like the ones that occurred stemming from the Postville, Iowa, ICE raid.If you care about the ideals and principles of justice you should care about what happened in the Postville raid and prosecutions. The treatment of the undocumented workers was an outrage. Community, leaders, lawyers, commentators and legal scholars from across the country have condemned the prosecutions due to the numerous constitutional and due process violations that occurred in the prosecutions.
The Congressional hearing led by Congresswoman Lofgren, Immigration Raids: Postville and Beyond, held July 24, 2008, brought out compelling testimony about the many due process violations suffered at the Postville Prosecutions.(See http://tinyurl.com/oqncj8). Congressman Joseph Baca, Congressman Luis Gutierrez and Congressman Albio Sires. traveled to Postville on July 26, 2008, to see with their own eyes what happened in Postville. "Kangaroo courts"was Congressman Baca's description of the Postville prosecutions. (See http://tinyurl.com/pdvho2)
The Northern District of Iowa United States Attorney Office used "Fast Track" prosecutions and "exploding plea bargains" to criminally convict and deport over 300 undocumented workers after the Postville, Iowa workplace ICE raid. The plea agreements negotiated by Chief Deputy, Stephanie Rose were unprecedented in the history of U.S. jurisprudence. Never before had a U. S Attorney Office decided to execute this type of "exploding" plea bargain as a tactic to prosecute over 300 workers within a two week period. With a "ticking time limit" the plea bargains asserted great pressure on the workers to waive all criminal and civil rights, plead guilty to a criminal document fraud charge and serve five months in prison all within a week of the raid. Otherwise, prosecutors threatened to prosecute them on a more serious aggravated identity theft charge that imposes a mandatory prison sentence of two years.
Dr. Erik Camayd-Frexias wrote a very strong OP-ED published in the Des Moines Register on May 28, 2009 (see http://tinyurl.com/q3a27c). He made a compelling case for a D.O.J. investigation of the Postville Prosecutions. He argues" that Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's recommendation of Stephanie Rose for U.S. Attorney in northern Iowa is an opportunity to investigate a cloud of questions about the judicial proceedings arising from the Agriprocessors immigration raid in Postville last May. Otherwise, critics say, Rose's confirmation would constitute a stamp of approval on the Postville debacle. The fast-track prosecutions of more than 300 detainees have been widely criticized for their abridgement of due process, predetermined orchestration, abusive charges and coercive pleas; the 17 to 1 defendant-to-lawyer ratio; and restriction of immigration counsel."
Dr. Camayd-Freixas, a Harvard educated professor and veteran Spanish-language court interpreter, was the prime eyewitness to the Postville ICE workplace raid and prosecutions. His 15-page essay vividly describes his observations as he translated for over 300 Postville workers. He later provided testimony at the Congressional hearing regarding the Postville prosecutions. He strongly believes the workers guilty pleas were coerced and it is his opinion that indicates that workers "distrusted their own court appointed lawyers."
In his essay, Dr. Camayd-Freizas describes that, few, if any, of the mostly illiterate Guatemalan defendants had an adequate opportunity to consult with immigration lawyer about potential eligibility for immigration relief. He expresses his disgust saying he felt "blindsided into an assignment (he) wanted no part of. In all (his) years as a court interpreter, (he) was assigned to criminal cases involving rape, murder, mayhem, narcotics, human trafficking, and terrorism." Yet nothing could have prepared him for this spectacle of injustice "put(ting) hundreds of innocent people in jail." (See http://tinyurl.com/rb3ybr and his video interview is at http://tinyurl.com/pnp7ma )The American Immigration Lawyers Association has recently issued a strong statement calling on Attorney General Holder to "order a full investigation" into the Postville prosecutions (see http://tinyurl.com/dxn4ng). No organization has spoken out more clearly and forcefully regarding the egregious Postville Prosecutions that the A.C.L.U. The May 4th statement issued by Iowa A.C.L.U. Executive Director Ben Stone praised the Supreme Court ruling in Flores-Figueroa v. United States, and characterized the Postville prosecutions perfectly: "the critical and novel element that sets Postville apart from prior ICE Raids was the pre-planned and massive prosecution of immigrant workers for allegedly using false documents to work." The ACLU statement submitted in July 2008 to the Congressional Committee looking into the Postville matter was a damning summation of the many due process violations present in the Postville prosecutions. (See http://tinyurl.com/lq66be).
The Northern District of Iowa U.S. Attorney Office helped expend nearly $6 million in federal tax in the ICE RAID and prosecutions. What did it accomplish? A massive raid, the arrest hundreds of people, unprecedented use of heavy handed negotiated pleas, all done with cattle-call trials in cattle-ground trailers, and jailed hundreds of people for five months each, after which they were deported. Why did they choose to proceed as they did? Why did they bother? Most of the workers were deportable. The criminal charges were not necessary and were outside standard federal criminal charging practice after an ICE work site raid. The same end could have been achieved after the Postville raid without all of the shameful federal criminal prosecution pageantry.
There remain numerous unanswered questions about the Postville prosecutions. With the recommendation of Stephanie Rose for U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of Iowa, it is far past time to get to the bottom of who is responsible for the many Postville due process violations. We cannot allow these violations to happen in our country and then be brushed under the rug. A full Department of Justice investigation of the Postville case is the only method that will allow the integrity of our justice system to be restored.
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