Tuesday, May 13, 2008



Wife cries for her arrested husband in an earlier raid

-by Ed Fallon

Early yesterday morning, U.S. immigration officials swooped down on the small Iowa town of Postville in the largest workplace raid in Iowa history. More than 300 workers at the kosher slaughterhouse were arrested, roughly a third of its total workforce. It was quite a show. It took months to plan and required the coordinated efforts of sixteen federal, state, and local agencies. The raid was three times the size of the one a year and a half ago in Marshalltown, Iowa. I can't imagine how much it cost. And to what end?
This sort of thing is a distraction from the serious debate we need to have on immigration reform. Raids such as this are devastating to the workers, their families, and the community at large. They are high-profile media spectacles that do nothing to address the systemic problems of immigration.
We need a bold, comprehensive approach to immigration reform. It is naïve to think that we can effectively address the problem by with a few dramatic raids here and there.  Immigration reform invariably necessitates hard work on both sides of the border.  My staff and I have drafted a thoughtful, balanced proposal on immigration, and I invite people to read it on my website and share their comments.

A big part of the problem is NAFTA and similar so-called "free trade" agreements. We need development policies that reduce the incentive for people to come here illegally. NAFTA and similar treaties have decimated the farm economy in Mexico just as surely as they have decimated the manufacturing base in our own country. Any trade agreement without wage thresholds, worker safety standards, and strict environmental provisions should be scrapped or rewritten.

This is one of the areas where I disagree substantially with my opponent in this election, Leonard Boswell. Congressman Boswell has been in Congress for twelve years but has yet to provide any leadership on this issue. He voted for several trade agreements that exacerbate the problem.  In 2005, he was one of only 36 House Democrats to support the Republicans' harsh and ineffective immigration reform bill.  And two years ago, when he ran against a Republican challenger, he used immigrants as scapegoats in advertisements that were shameful, dehumanizing and misleading.

I'm focused on a truthful, candid discussion of this complex problem. We need to be honest with ourselves:  big business in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada has a stake in maintaining the status quo on immigration. But for American workers and the poor of Latin America, the status quo is disastrous. Yesterday's raid further underscores that fact.

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