This video nicely encapsulates the multiple strands of illegality that converge on the issue of undocumented workers. 700 people arrested and detained for working illegally and having used false identity papers; at the same time, the meatpacking company for which they work is being investigated for violation of health and safety laws, child labor violations, allegations of sexual harassment, and for withholding pay from their workers (who, being undocumented, have no legal standing to sue for withheld wages). If you’ve read Fast Food Nation the story of the meatpacking plant conditions will be familiar.
Jerry’s Story: This article by Nina Bernstein of the New York Times reports on a green card holding legal resident who spent 3 years in jail awaiting a deportation hearing after a misdemeanor drug offense, because that offense, in combination with an earlier drug arrest, added up to what the government considered an “aggravated felony” that required automatic deportation. The article’s description of the government’s handling of the case–including considering his earlier minor drug offense a “conviction” even though the case had been dismissed–is positively Kafkaesque.
Many immigrants got caught in this draconian interpretation of the law. But there is now a potential remedy (if they appear before a sympathetic immigration judge): in July of 2010 the Supreme Court determined that legal residents with minor drug convictions are eligible to have an immigration judge weigh their offenses against other factors in their lives and decide whether to let them stay. The full story is here: Bernstein on Supreme Court Ruling
This narrative of Pedro’s Story, and his wife Emily’s blog, give a vivid and emotional account of the kind of injustice and horror the immigration system is wreaking on families. The first link will take you to a clear account of the family’s journey through the court system (it has a happy ending for them); the second, to a blog written by the US citizen wife who was dragged through the nightmare–good source material for Renee and Estrella.