In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
POSTVILLE, IOWA, May 29 — The above statement by anti-Nazi Pastor Martin Niemöller is clearly related to the U.S.-Homeland Security Agency’s immigration police (ICE) attack on undocumented immigrants. The Des Moines Register reported (5/12): “Months in planning, Monday’s raid involved 16 local, state and federal agencies, led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).” The largest single workplace raid in U.S. history saw 389 workers — mostly from Guatemala and Mexico — arrested in minutes at the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant. They were herded onto buses and interned at the National Cattle Congress Fairgrounds, some 80 miles away in Waterloo. There they were kept in a makeshift camp, behind a chain-link fence, watched by armed immigration officers for three days until processed and sent to jails state-wide.
Nearly 300 have pleaded guilty to reduced charges of document fraud and will serve short prison sentences before being deported, while others await immediate deportation or have been placed on temporary release for compassionate reasons.
The appearance of dozens of buses, helicopters and heavily-armed ICE, state and local cops resembled a scene from a Nazi-era film. And the aim is the same: to terrorize workers.
Rosa, a 40-year-old mother of two, was working on the kill floor that morning when she heard the cries of “la migra” — a warning about ICE cops — ringing through the plant and saw her friends drop their tools and run. She slipped into a freezer and hid among the dead chickens, sitting alone in the cold for several minutes, thinking that everything was over. She would be caught, sent back to Mexico with nothing. The better life she had planned for her children was not to be.
The plant, which produces kosher and non-kosher products, was already a hell for workers, paid less than Iowa’s $7.25-an-hour minimum. The ICE investigation revealed abuses like a supervisor covering a worker’s eyes with duct tape and beating him with a meat hook.
But that wasn’t the main aim of the raid. The company has not been charged with anything, even though accused for years with many health violations. Not much has changed since Upton Sinclair wrote his novel “The Jungle,” exposing horrendous conditions in the meatpacking industry in Chicago and across the Midwest.
The aim of the raid, and many others occurring nation-wide, is not really to arrest those “guilty” of “identity theft.” Its real aim is to terrorize undocumented workers, and all workers, into working for less and less, thereby reaping increasing super-profits for a capitalist system desperate to pay for its wars and economic crisis.
The lie spread by the bosses’ media — and by many of their lapdogs among the union “leaders” — that immigrants are “stealing jobs” from citizen workers is exposed by the fact that, according to a report in the NY Times (5/31), Iowa bosses can’t get enough workers. The state has the second lowest unemployment rate in the country, 50% less than the national rate. Iowa employers are desperately seeking employees. Why? “Companies want to be in Iowa because wages are lower than elsewhere in the nation or region,” says the Times. While the bosses in general approve the idea of terrorizing workers into accepting lower wages, there’s a section that doesn’t want the fascist attackers to go “too far,” to scare off workers from filling these low-wage jobs and limiting their profits.
This fascist attack occurs alongside the growing imprisonment of undocumented workers (see page 2 on the growing U.S. prison population). El Nuevo Herald (Miami Herald Spanish edition), reports (5/28 ) that the jail in Del Verde, Texas, is filled with arrested undocumented immigrants, even though this hasn’t stopped the flow of these immigrants. This and other jails throughout the Southwest are big money-makers for private prison companies that run many of them. The border is also militarized as U.S. and Mexican rulers put their Plan Mexico into operation, under the guise of “fighting the drug cartels,” thereby militarizing the entire region.
The essence of Pastor Niemöller’s 60-year-old declaration is that all workers and their allies must oppose these growing fascist attacks. We in PLP are organizing exactly that, and across all borders.