Monday, June 02, 2008

Lost in Translation: Due Process and Constitutional Rights

"There must be amidst all the confusions of the hour a tried and undisturbed remnant of persons who will not become purveyors of coercion and violence, who are ready to stand alone...for the way of peace and love..." - Rufus Jones - (Quaker historian and theologian)

It has now been more than two weeks since the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid in Postville, Iowa. The massive ICE operation led to the arrest and detention of 390 undocumented immigrants who were employed at a local meatpacking processing plant. But the raid's impact has been felt by both Postville's immigrant and non-immigrant communities.

National media and public attention has heightened concerns about the timing and scope of the raid; concerns about the hasty hearings that took place; the lack of access to legal counsel and due process for those who were detained; the inability of detainees to communicate with their loved ones; and other questionable and troubling ICE actions. The raid, coupled with allegations of labor law violations by the meatpacking plant created a state of chaos and confusion for Postville's immigrant workers and their families.

Aurelio Zamol, brother of one of the detainees shared, "I am willing to pay for my sister's return to Guatemala. We ask pardon to this country's highest authorities. We did not know one needed permission to come here. "

Sandra Sanchez, director of AFSC's immigrant rights program in Des Moines, Iowa asserts, "Aurelio Zamol's situation is similar to that of many detainees. They are Guatemala's indigenous Mayan communities and have limited understanding of the laws in their own country; much less of the layers of this nation's federal and state laws, and that each person has constitutional rights and fair treatment under the nation's judicial system." (Photo Credit: Sign outside of St. Bridget Church Postville, Iowa - courtesy of Sandra Sanchez).

AFSC joins its voice to the many faith-based organizations who continue to urge the White House, designated agencies and officials to immediately:

  • Adhere to policies that ensure fair treatment and respect for the constitutional rights of all detainees, this includes immediate access to legal counsel;
  • Attend to and release those who may have a medical condition or humanitarian needs;
  • Ensure that all detainees to stay in close proximity to their loved ones; and,
  • Work with Congressional leaders to find a fair and bipartisan solution which places the nation's founding principles at the core of future immigration policies and legislation.