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Hispanic Caucus to Investigate Postville Trials

New America Media, News Report, Elena Shore Posted: Jul 31, 2008

Editor's Note: The Iowa immigration raids were nothing short of a clear violation of the values enshrined in the Bill of Rights, according to members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. They spoke to members of the ethnic media on Access Washington, a biweekly teleconference series hosted by New America Media. Elena Shore is an editor for New America Media.

Congressman Joe Baca, D-Calif., recently traveled to Postville, Iowa, the site of the recent ICE raids, and was stunned by what he found.

With a shaking voice, Baca recounted the emotional testimony of mothers who had to explain to their children why they were wearing ankle bracelets. After being arrested in a May 12 immigration raid and charged with identity theft, they now have nothing to do but wait for their court dates and deportation orders which, in some cases, wont be until 2009. In the meantime, Baca says, These women are left captive, wearing ankle bracelets. They cant work, they cant support their children, they cant leave.

What made the Iowa raids different, Baca says, was that immigrant workers faced criminal charges of identity theft, were processed en masse and coerced into pleading guilty. In other words, he argues, they were denied due process and tried in kangaroo courts.

Baca, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, told reporters from the U.S. ethnic media that he and his colleagues are dedicated to finding out how this happened in America, where we have the Bill of Rights. Baca spoke Thursday on Access Washington, a New America Media-sponsored conference call with the ethnic media.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus plans to hold oversight hearings to see if witnesses from the administration can be held in contempt, and to look into the judgment exercised by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.

The Caucus voted unanimously to send a letter to the Department of Justice and the Department of Labor to investigate how they were involved. It is also asking the state of Iowa to re-examine its child labor laws.

The ferocity of the Postville raid and subsequent criminal trials may seem to be a departure from past immigration policy, but in fact it is the logical result of a legal structure that has been in place for years, according to Congressman Charles Gonzalez, D-Texas.

A report released Monday by the Department of Justice concluded that appointments of immigration judges often took into account candidates political positions and Republican credentials. Their degree of expertise in immigration law was overlooked, despite the fact that this is known as one of the most complex areas in law.

Gonzalez, who chairs the Hispanic Caucus Civil Rights Task Force, says the investigation stemmed from the firing of seven U.S. attorneys in one day in 2006. People wanted to know how far this went into the Department of Justice, Gonzalez said. What we found was that politics trumped qualifications.

The report found that these political appointments expanded to the selection and appointment of judges, something that Gonzalez says was previously unheard of. Immigration judges, he says, were not judged on their legal training, but on their political philosophies. And, Gonzalez says, We have been seeing the results of that in Postville.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus plans to hold an ongoing inquiry into what motivated the Department of Homeland Security to seek criminal charges against the undocumented workers when a civil trial would have been speedier and cost less taxpayer dollars and to look into the judgment exercised by the Department of Homeland Security committee.

But Baca noted that the buck stops in the Oval Office, adding that at any point, the president could simply say this is inhumane and we dont have to do it this way.

The first obligation in the judicial system is to do justice, Baca said, and that was not done.

Related Articles:

Railroad Justice

Interpreting the Largest ICE Raid in U.S. History: A Personal Account

The Children of Iowa ICE Raids

Raw Nerves Remain After New ICE Arrest in Iowa

After Iowa Raid, Families in Limbo

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