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Monday, December 18, 2006

Immigrant Mothers Snatched from their Children

Most of the reactions posted on an Iowa newspaper’s Web site about last week’s swift raids on the Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in Marshalltown, Iowa have been nothing short of cruel and hostile. Close to 100 immigrants were rounded up by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (known as ICE) and taken to Camp Dodge, an Iowa National Guard camp in Johnston, Iowa.

One reader posted this comment on the Des Moines Register’s Web site:

Who cares if the officials "violated rules"—the illegal invaders violated rules (also known as LAWS) when they ILLEGALLY came into the country …

Let's get some more of those busses loaded and rolling toward the jails, airports, and the Mexican border!!!!

Way to go ICE. You rock!!!!

How could you be so heartless when you hear this kind of story?

Mothers were taken away, leaving many children behind without supervision. One horrendous story involved a 22-year-old woman, Escalante who was arrested last Tuesday without being given time to find care for Ariana, her 4-month-old infant, who she was BREASTFEEDING. Immigration advocates who began fervently gathering these children, including Ariana, to care for them had problems feeding the child. Sister Christine Feagan, part of the St. Mary's Hispanic Ministry, said another mother tried to breastfeed the child, but the little girl knew it wasn’t her mother.

Anxious to find out whether this mom was reunited with her hungry baby, I e-mailed one of the Des Monies Register reporters covering this shameless story, Jennifer Jacobs. The reporter responded Saturday to inform me that the mother has been reunited with the child and the baby is eating. Thank God!

But many other children have still not been able to see their parents since the raid. At one point, early in this heinous mission, advocates, who were desperately trying to match parents with left behind children, were denied access to the detainees. Camp Dodge officials would not allow advocates to talk to the immigrants. Some advocates who were also immigrants were threatened with being arrested and deported if they, themselves, did not possess legal documentation.

Many aspects of this Iowa sweep are painful to read, but one thing many people may not know is that the people seized in the raid have not committed criminal infractions. If they do indeed lack the legal documentation needed to be in this country, that constitutes civil violations of immigration law. Was this sweep a just response to such civil violations? I say no. The crime here is that these government officials separated the breastfeeding mother and the other mothers of small children who depend on their parents for shelter and sustenance.

As the story moves along Immigration attorneys are questioning the ICE officials’ actions. Some of those officials are being accused of violating rules. I hope justice will prevail.

Here’s a comment posted by another Des Moines Register reader that quelled my shaken spirit after hearing about this human rights tragedy:

The vast majority of American citizens are descendants of immigrants (prior to the 1940s there were no immigration policies and all US borders were open.) Those of us whose ancestors were able to enter the country prior to any policy have no business looking down on those who are trying to achieve the same result—a better life for themselves and their families.

As far as these undocumented workers are concerned, it is important to realize that they are NOT criminals. They are breaking a civil law, which is the same as you and I getting a ticket for a traffic violation.

Perhaps a trip to the many parts of the world that live below the poverty line would help people in this country understand the desperation of those who can barely feed their families while living in sight of the richest country in the world. The true solution requires creating fair and just immigration policies that allow those who desire to be productive an easy process to become citizens. Building fences and mass arrests only reinforce the poor reputation that America has in the eyes of the rest of the world.


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