Sunday, July 27, 2008

Iowa's Apartheid

POSTVILLE, Iowa — When federal immigration agents raided the kosher meatpacking plant here in May and rounded up 389 illegal immigrants, they found more than 20 under-age workers, some as young as 13.
This is the way apartheid works. The government--whether by design or accident--creates a class of disenfranchised laborers without stable communities or a ligitimate means to complain about their conditions. Employers then exploit these workers with a rapaciousness that makes one wonder whether these employers recognized their victims as fully human.

In South Africa, the government set up Bantustans (similar to American Indian reservations) as permanent residences for blacks in unproductive areas where there were no jobs. The people who lived in these Bantustans would then seek employment in cities and mines where they had no legal status and were brutally exploited by their employers. South Africa's government and society thus maintained a highly mobile and vulnerable working class without access to legal remedies for employer wrongdoing in the workplace.

That seems to be the model in Iowa and the rest of the U.S. Labor agents and word-of-mouth stories inform Latin Americans that good-paying jobs are available in the U.S. But our immigration system is designed to deny most of these potential emigrants legal entry or status. So they enter and reside illegally. Then they go to work for outfits like Agriprocessors, Inc. This is what happens:

A Guatemalan named Elmer L. who said he was 16 when he started working on the plant’s killing floors, said he worked 17-hour shifts, six days a week. In an affidavit, he said he was constantly tired and did not have time to do anything but work and sleep. “I was very sad,” he said, “and I felt like I was a slave.”

Others said they were sexually exploited. One immigrant was blindfolded with duct tape and struck with a meat hook. As Elmer later explained to authorities, “They told us they were going to call immigration if we complained.” And that is how it works.

Get the whole story and listen to interviews.

6 comments:

Shawn Michel de Montaigne said...

I lived in Colorado for 40 years. In Greeley, ConAgra owns a huge slaughterhouse. They have quite the cushy relationship with Denver's legislators and the Governor's house, and so for years have been able, literally, to send buses to Mexico, load them up with "illegals," then ship them up to work some of the most dangerous, labor-intensive work on Earth--for $2 an hour.

("Fast Food Nation" (the book, I don't know about the movie) featured this. I highly recommend that book.)

Anyway, one of my friends used to work for the Weld County Sheriff's Department. Sometimes the sheriffs would talk about going on a "beaner run," where, after hours, they'd round up some "browns," and take 'em out to the distant fields of east Weld County to "have some fun with them." I remember all this like it was yesterday. My friend told me some of those "browns" never returned from those round-ups. Others came back torn up, beat up, savaged.

We live in a conscienceless culture that enriches itself on the backs of these people. We will surely someday reap the grim consequences of both our indifference and our sloth in doing anything about these crimes.

David L. Davis said...

Well said, friend.

Sandra said...

What can the illegal immigrants do? They do not have that advance knowledge, they do not have any professional skills, but they have a life they have to live up to and a family to take care of. I am specifically talking about my people.

I am Mexican American, but my mom and dad were immigrants, not illegal. My dad had a certain way to do things. He decided to marry a US citizen, and arrange his "papers", but before that when he was about 16, he came to the US to work on construction related jobs. Many people, like my dad at this age, had to work immensly out there in the sun, out there with the risk of getting hurt at any moment and hardly carry any rights.

Again, what can they do? They need the money to support a family back home.

In my opinion, these companies who have illegals working there with harsh conditons are to be reported. They have no morals. Although the illegal immigrants are trying to work for money ilegally, they shouldn't have to work in this hell, and once again, What Can They Do?

I seriously do not know what can be done. I am up to the point where I have nothing to say, yet I cry inside.

faiza said...

I certainly agree with Sandra's comments. Companies using illegal immigrants as a source of cheap labor should be reported.

A few weeks back, police did arrest the manager of a warehouse in Houston for employing illegal immigrants. This is what should be done with all the companies. Larger companies, such as warehouses and other sources where there is a big need for labor, should be evaluated by police or some secret agency. This way illegal immigrants would not have any choice but to go back to their country.
I know that it is easier said than done but government should try to formulate a secret agency that should spy on such companies so that they won't hire illegal immigrants.

Michelle Morales said...

That was pretty messed-up. I completely agree with Sandra. That was wrong how they made those "kids" yeah(under age) work for those long hrs. I know for a fact that they where taking advantage of them of the simple fact that they where "illegal". What's also sad, its that they can't work. And all they just wanted was to work so they could provide for their family. :(

Michelle Morales said...

Yeah this was a pretty sad story. I feel for those "illegal immigrants". what was wrong is that they where taking advantage of them just of the simple fact that I could report the problem because they where "illigal" and also lost because they had to work so they could provide for their family. I remember one of my family members being in that same position. Although the pay was good. He had the courage to leave and find a better job that did not treat him that crucial.