Postville to Pikesville

Our view : Immigration crackdown is wrong approach

June 08, 2008

The run on kosher meat in supermarkets in Northwest Baltimore and beyond has little to do with choice cuts and everything to do with the Bush administration's get-tough-on-illegal-immigrants policy. How's that?

Several weeks ago, federal immigration agents raided AgriProcessors Inc. in Postville, Iowa, one of the best-known kosher slaughterhouses in the country, and arrested 339 workers. The disruption of business there has left kosher markets in Maryland and elsewhere with fewer meats carrying the Rubashkin brand. But the case reinforces the need for a fair, progressive reform of U.S. immigration policies.

The administration's crackdown on businesses suspected of employing illegal immigrants falls heaviest on workers who are rounded up in a flash, often leaving behind families and children. Since the May 12 raid at AgriProcessors, for example, no action has been taken against the company owners although federal officials insist the investigation is continuing. The impact on workers is borne out in Immigration and Customs Enforcement's statistics: Between October of last year and May 27, the agency arrested on criminal charges 775 employees and 75 owners, supervisors or managers.

Immigration officials have gotten tougher on business owners and supervisory staff: Criminal arrests increased from 25 managers in 2002 to 100 in 2007. Prosecutions of employers also resulted in $30 million in fines and forfeitures in 2007.A single-minded focus on enforcement is the wrong approach. With an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants here, federal officials can't possibly lock up all of them. Workers need a safe, timely path to citizenship, and employers need a reliable source of workers.

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