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Postville Blame Game


Last May, ICE agents descended on the quiet town of Postville, Iowa, swooping up 390 people at the Agriprocessors, Inc. slaughterhouse in the largest immigration raid in U.S. history. Months later, we find ourselves in the middle of a blame game in which the big picture has been obscured. The employers blame the illegal aliens for deceit and falsifying documents. The illegal aliens blame “necessity,” possibly interpreted as blaming their home governments for neglecting their countrymen. Agriprocessors, Inc. is receiving blame for egregious working conditions and abuse. Open border advocates blame the government for not enacting “comprehensive” reform. And now, three members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus blame the ICE for hard-handed tactics and the Justice Department for ignoring due process.

Pulling at our heartstrings with tales of fractured families and unconscionable labor practices, Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Joe Baca (D-CA), and Albio Sires (D-NJ), would have us lose focus. Our goal is to prevent the abuse of workers by unscrupulous employers, the splitting up of families by parents who put their children at risk by coming here illegally, and the need for ICE raids. Before any of the agonies of Postville occurred, people broke our immigration laws and entered the United States illegally – a criminal offense. If we prevent the illegal entry, we avoid repeating what happened in Postville. The key to prevention lies in Attrition Through Enforcement, the simple principle that if we enforce our immigration laws, we will witness a decrease in the violation of our immigration laws.

The new study from the Center of Immigration Studies, Homeward Bound: Recent Immigration Enforcement and the Decline in the Illegal Alien Population, shows that Attrition Through Enforcement is working. The message sent out by Attrition Through Enforcement is that it’s not worth the risk of coming to the United States illegally because you won’t be able to get a job, and if you do come you will get caught. This message is not just for would-be illegal aliens, but also for U.S. employers tempted to hire illegal workers at lower wages and working conditions reminiscent of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. That message does more to prevent the tragedies of separated families and abused workers than any other approach to our immigration woes.

The finger of blame is also pointed at us, for not enforcing our immigration laws for decades, for enacting amnesties instead of holding fast to the rule of law. We must correct the problem, not repeat the mistakes of the past. If we do not, American citizens, legal immigrants, and illegal aliens alike will all suffer far greater tragedies than what we saw in Postville. Sifting for truth in all the blame is a difficult task; however, we can be sure that no matter who is to blame or how many are to blame, we know how to prevent the tragedies that have occurred in Postville, and we can happily blame the largest ICE raid in history for helping diminish the problem of illegal immigration.

Caroline Espinosa is a former press secretary for a U.S. Senator and spokesperson for NumbersUSA

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