This Week in Postville: New documents emerge, child labor investigations and more

Lots of new developments out of Postville over the weekend, most notably the release by the American Civil Liberties Union of a script used by judges and attorneys in the “fast-tracked” legal proceedings that followed the May 12 raid at Agriprocessors.

I saw these scripts in use at the Waterloo fairgrounds and they didn’t seem particularly sinister at the time. But now it seems the scripts amounted to an entire blueprint for how the prosecutions should unfold and suggest to some experts that they were prepared in overly close cooperation between federal judges and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Prosecutors say the scripts were not binding and were meant to help swamped defense counsel. But some legal experts say the documents suggest the court had endorsed the plea agreements in advance, before a single immigrant had appeared in court, prompting at least one defense attorney presented with the script to walk out “in disgust.”

The script is likely to provide ammunition to skeptics in Congress investigating the possible denial of constitutional protections to the illegal immigrants arrested in Postville.

You can download the documents here. The New York Times report on the documents is here.

The Des Moines Register continues its probing coverage of the raid with a story on the child labor allegations investigated by the Iowa Labor Commissioner’s Office. The report covers a lot of familiar territory – many interviews have been published with accounts by former child laborers, including one interview by yours truly – but none get at the essential question of the company’s culpability.

Agri says the kids provided fake IDs and that they terminated employees who were found to have lied about their ages. The kids say their ages were never questioned, which isn’t surprising considering that the documentation they provided – fake or not – includes date of birth. If the company didn’t challenge the legality of the documents themselves, even though a large majority of its workers were apparently illegal immigrants, why would they have specifically checked ages? This is what the state attorney general will have to sort out.

In other news, the Orthodox Union’s Menachem Genack was interviewed on NPR alongside Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, who wrote an Op-Ed last week in The New York Times calling for a serious rabbinic investigation of Agriprocessors. Genack repeats the OU’s longstanding position on Agri – that it’s up to the government to determine if workers are being treated properly – and takes credit for forcing out Sholom Rubashkin as plant manager and getting a compliance officer hired. Not a lot that’s new here, but still an interesting exchange. Listen here.

Finally, my colleague, Fundermentalist Jacob Berkman, reports from the CAJE conference in Burlington, Vt., that Agri meat was ordered off the menu. We’ll have more on that shortly.

UPDATE: The Fundermentalist reports: Using meat from a plant that may not be up to ethical par “was just not in the spirit of CAJE,” the organization’s executive director, Jeffrey Lasday told me Sunday afternoon. He said he made the decision not to use Agri shortly after the plant was raided in a large-scale immigration bust in May.

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