Religious leaders said the May immigration raid at a kosher slaughterhouse should spark national immigration reform.
In a conference call with the media Wednesday, the leaders condemned alleged worker abuse at the Agriprocessors meat plant in Postville, Iowa, and said the arrest of more than 390 of its employees on immigration violations should force Americans to rethink immigration law.
“The immigration raid in Postville underscores why the United States needs comprehensive immigration reform, an important priority of the American Jewish community,” said Gideon Aronoff, the president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. “Absent real reform, raids, detention and deportation are the only tools left to address immigrants.”
Along with Aronoff, taking part in the call were Rosalind Spigel, the acting director of the Jewish Labor Committee; Rabbi Morris Allen, the founder of the new kosher ethical certification initiative Hekhsher Tzedek; and the Rev. Steve Brackett, the pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Postville, Iowa.
In light of the allegations of worker abuse at Agriprocessors, Allen said it is also up to industry officials to make sure that even illegal immigrants are treated well at work.
“No one will worry about people being abused who are trying to improve their standing in life,” he said. “There is a broken nature to our immigration system that is not simply about porous borders but about industry sometimes as well.”
Allen also lauded Jewish religious leaders for calling for changes at kosher meat facilities, but criticized the non-Jewish community for not doing the same at non-kosher plants.
“I am unaware in any part of the non-Jewish community of evaluating the non-kosher meat sold in non-kosher supermarkets,” said Allen, whose group is looking at possible human rights violations at several other kosher meat plants.
He said later, “The absence of any kind of critical looking is to me a bit surprising.”