The Jewish Advocate, Vol 204, No. 19. Sivan 5773, May 10, 2013
Rational Immigration Reform must be Passed.
On May 12, 2008, the largest immigration raid in the United States to date, in which 389 persons were arrested, occurred in Postville, Iowa. The company that was raided, Agriprocessors, was the largest kosher meat packing plant in America and owned by a Hasidic family. As in 2007, after an army of federal agents descended on a New Bedford textile factory and arrested 361 immigrants, strong calls for comprehensive immigration reform were heard. Despite advocacy by then-President Bush and President Obama, it has not been accomplished.
As Jews committed to social and economic justice, we found the Postville raid doubly painful. First, it tore hundreds of families apart, often with a mother or father suddenly imprisoned for months and then summarily deported. Most of the deportees had no prior criminal records. Second, we were distressed that the raided workplace was a site for production of kosher products that we would normally have been confident to purchase and serve our families. Kosher insignia on food products convey high standards of preparation and, perhaps naively, we would not have expected exploitation of immigrants to be a factor in their production.
After Postville, Jewish groups and kosher consumers engaged in awareness and advocacy campaigns. They raised funds to help workers’ families caught up in these raids and spurred enforcement of worker rights within the kosher food industry. The Conservative movement created a new Magen Tzedek certification, indicating that food products have been prepared in keeping with Jewish ethics, including workers’ rights.
Now, on the fifth anniversary of Postville, Congress should pass rational immigration reform that includes a reasonable and clear path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and inclusion of bi-national same-sex couples. This is a human issue and an economic issue on which it’s high time for Democrats and Republicans to find common ground.
Sheila Decter, Executive Director; Jeff Stone, Board Member
Jewish Journal of the North Shore
VOL 37, NO 21, MAY 16, 2013 – 7 SIVAN, 5773
Still Fighting for Immigration Reform
Five years ago, the small town of Postville, Iowa, was torn apart when 389 undocumented workers at Agriprocessors, America’s largest kosher meat packing plant, were arrested, detained for five months and finally deported to Guatemala, where many had fled violence and poverty.
Everyday, Homeland Security and ICE take mothers, fathers, children and friends away from their loved ones.
Our community has a special responsibility to remember Postville, and not simply because the food prepared there by the exploitation of immigrant workers was labeled kosher and served in our stores and on our Shabbat tables. We are called to remember Postville and the deportations because not so long ago, it was we who were strangers. We were the ones denied entry and shuffled back and forth across borders as we fled from violence. We were the ones who were unwelcome.
Many of our parents and grandparents were luckier than immigrants today. If a path of citizenship had been as unavailable as it is for many today, we would perhaps not be here today. JALSA believes it is a Jewish duty to work for just immigration reform in this country. We believe in including same sex partners, older children and siblings in the category of family members who can apply for a green card. We remember Jewish families divided by immigration policies, and what that meant for those left behind.
Five years after Postville, and millions of other detentions and deportations, our nation can wait no longer. We need comprehensive immigration reform now.
Jeremy Wood and Sheila Decter,
Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action