Monday, August 11, 2008

If You Don't Know About This... You Should

I've been following the story in Postville, Iowa and I realize that if there is any public issue important to both humanists and theists, this is it. There is such an immense humanitarian concern for the people involved in the ICE raid that took place back on May 12, that I really wanted to call attention to it for all who are unaware of what happened and who may feel called to add their voices in prayer or protest.

I have seen very little about this story in the mainstream media, but there are many resources with information about the ICE raid on the internet. Here is just one of those resources from the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary: The Statement of Dr. Erik Camayd-Freixas, Federally Certified Interpreter at the US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa regarding a hearing on "The arrest, prosecution, and conviction of 297 undocumented workers in Postville, Iowa from May 12 to 22, 2008" before the Subcommitte on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law on July 24, 2008. The statement is 20 pages long but I urge you to read fully, as an American. The details are important. A few excerpts below:

"In my capacity as the court’s expert witness I observed that the arrest, prosecution, and conviction of 297 undocumented workers from Postville was a process marred by irregularities at every step of the way, which combined to produce very lamentable results."

"In every instance, detainees who cried did so for their children, never for themselves."

"To him we were part of the system keeping him from being deported back to his country, where his children, wife, mother, and sister depended on him. He was their sole support and did not know how they were going to make it with him in jail for 5 months. None of the 'options' really mattered to him. Caught between despair and hopelessness, he just wept. He had failed his family, and was devastated. I went for some napkins, but he refused them. I offered him a cup of soda, which he superstitiously declined, saying it could be 'poisoned.' His Native American spirit was broken and he could no longer think. He stared for a while at the signature page pretending to read it, although I knew he was actually praying for guidance and protection. Before he signed with a scribble, he said: 'God knows you are just doing your job to support your families, and that job is to keep me from supporting mine.'"

"SSA actuaries now calculate that illegal workers are currently subsidizing the retirement of legal residents at a rate of $8.9 billion per year, for which the illegal (no-match) workers will never receive benefits."

"Several families had taken refuge at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church, terrified, sleeping on pews and refusing to leave for days. Volunteers from the community served food and organized activities for the children. At the local high school, only three of the 15 Latino students came back on Tuesday, while at the elementary and middle school, 120 of the 363 children were absent. In the following days the principal went around town on the school bus and gathered 70 students after convincing the parents to let them come back to school; 50 remained unaccounted for. Some American parents complained that their children were traumatized by the sudden disappearance of so many of their school friends. The principal reported the same reaction in the classrooms, saying that for the children it was as if ten of their classmates had suddenly died. Counselors were brought in. American children were having nightmares that their parents too were being taken away."

"A line was crossed at Postville. The day after in Des Moines, there was a citizens’ protest featured in the evening news. With quiet anguish, a mature all-American woman, a mother, said something striking, as only the plain truth can be. 'This is not humane,' she said. 'There has to be a better way.'"

Special thanks to blogger Border Explorer for her continued reporting on these events and links to many sources of information. Unfortunately, the federal raid on the workers dissected a state investigation into the unfair labor practices of the company, Agriprocessors. The sleaze there was wide and deep--the good news? As BE reported, "Iowa state labor officials are turning over 57 cases of 'egregious' child labor violations to IA Attorney General with the recommendation that they are prosecuted to 'the fullest extent of the law.' Each of the 57 cases has multiple child labor violations in each case. Further investigation results may unturn additional cases, they say." Finally, please take five minutes and watch this video.

Eaters’ Bill of Rights from the National Catholic Rural Life Conference

Eaters have a right to food.

Eaters have a right to safe food.

Eaters have a right to nutritious food.

Eaters have a right to food with country of origin labels.

Eaters have a right to food with labels for genetic modification.

Eaters have a right to know whether food has been genetically modified.

Eaters have a right to food produced without harming air, water or land.

Eaters have a right to food produced under socially just circumstances.

Eaters have a right to know the conditions of their food production:

• Is the environment harmed?
• Is the food safe?
• Are the animals treated with dignity and respect?
• Is the food produced on farms by family farmers?
• Is the food produced by factories?
• Are the farmers paid a just wage?
• Do farm workers have safe and healthy working conditions?
• Are production contracts fair or one-sided?
• Are processing plant and warehouse workers paid just wages?
• Are processing plant workers given reasonable work schedules?
• Is the food produced locally or transported for thousands of miles?
• Is the food system controlled by a few agribusiness cartels?

Eaters around the world have a right to a secure food system.

Eaters have a right to good food at a fair price.

Eating is a moral act

O, Lord
Help us to remember where our bread comes from
and why we yearn for living waters.
Teach us your guiding principles
for reverence of your Creation and justice for your People.
Help us make a place at the table for everyone.
Grace us when we eat with justice on our plate.
Then fill us with joy.

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