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Immigration raids lead U.S. to moral, legal crisis

Raquel Aldana | 7/23/2008, 3:44 a.m.

Thus, the protection of stricter Fourth Amendment search and seizure, Fifth Amendment due process, and Sixth Amendment right to counsel constitutional guarantees available to most criminal defendants were unavailable to these workers. Nearly all waived any rights they might have had, and they did so under extreme prosecutorial pressure. The uncharacteristic speed and efficiency of the Postville raid left workers without adequate opportunity to consult with defense counsel. Few, and possibly none, had access to immigration lawyers to learn about the potential consequences of their pleas on their immigration status.

The involvement of local law enforcement in these raids is also worrisome. Distrust of police keeps many immigrants from reporting crimes. This increases their vulnerability as victims. Moreover, the drain that these additional responsibilities place the already limited resources of local police departments takes away from their primary duties as community caretakers.

The courts must be vigilant in protecting the rights of workers and their families and insist on stricter constitutional guarantees when criminal charges are involved.

These raids should be halted immediately. The prospect of future raids should certainly create a sense of urgency for the U.S. to adopt immigration policies that allows employers to hire migrant workers, and include strong labor protections that offer a path to legalization for workers and their families. If workers are legal, we are all better off.

Raquel Aldana is a board member of the Society of American Law Teachers and a professor of law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Law.