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Catholic Bishops Condemn Immigration Raids

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September 11, 2008

Raw Story reported yesterday that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has condemned the Bush administration’s use of raids — like the May 12 raid of a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, and the more recent, and even bigger raid of an electrical transformer plant in Laurel, Miss., — in its ham-handed attempt to enforce immigration law:

“The humanitarian costs of these raids are immeasurable and unacceptable in a civilized society,” Bishop John Wester, chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) committee on migration, said in a statement.

“I call upon the Department of Homeland Security and President (George W.) Bush to reexamine the use of worksite enforcement raids as an immigration enforcement tool,” he added.

This isn’t the first time the religious community has spoken out against immigration raids. Alternet reports that immediately following the raids:

Jewish activists expressed their outrage by organizing a boycott of Agriprocessors, Inc. Within a few weeks, hundreds of rabbis and Jewish organizations signed a letter condemning both the company’s treatment of the workers and the government’s commando-style terrorizing of a community.

What kicked into gear following the raids could only be described as a mass conviction machine without even the pretense of due process: Groups of as many of 17 arrestees were lumped together to be represented by one attorney, prohibiting attorneys from mounting a real defense on behalf of each arrestee. Those defense attorneys received pre-packaged scripts from the government on how to expedite their clients’ cases through the courts as quickly as possible. For the government, raid + mass arrests + overwhelmed attorneys = tons of quick convictions.

After the raid in Laurel, Miss., the ACLU sent attorneys to the electronics factory, where they heard reports of workers being segregated by race or ethnicity and interrogated and many workers were denied access to attorneys. In addition, Immigration and Customs Enforcement never told family members and lawyers following the raid where the workers were being jailed.

An inter-faith movement for immigration reform is underway, according to The Christian Post:

“Immigrants continue to be scapegoated for our economic ills and often dehumanized by the use of anti-immigrant rhetoric,” [Bishop Wester] complained. “As a nation — a nation of immigrants I might add — we cannot continue to accept the labor of immigrants while also undermining their basic human dignity. We cannot have it both ways.”

The opposition from the religious community, coupled with the economic blow to the small towns in which these businesses operate, shows that raids hurts all Americans, not just immigrants.

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