As many as 700 arrested in Iowa illegal immigration raid at the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant

12 05 2008
POSTVILLE, Iowa — A raid by federal immigration officials at the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant may have resulted in as many as 700 arrests, immigration officials said Monday

Agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement entered the Agriprocessors Inc. complex in northeast Iowa Monday morning to execute a criminal search warrant for evidence relating to aggravated identity theft, fraudulent use of Social Security numbers and other crimes, said Tim Counts, a Midwest ICE spokesman.

Agents are also executing a civil search warrant for people illegally in the United States, he said.

Immigration officials told aides to Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, that they expect 600 to 700 arrests. About 1,000 to 1,050 people work at the plant, according to Iowa Workforce Development, the state’s employment services agency.

Chuck Larson, a truck driver for Agriprocessing, was in the plant when the agents arrived. “There has to be 100 of them,” he said of the agents.

Larson said the agents told workers to stay in place then separated them by asking those with identification to stand to the right and those with other papers, to stand to the left.

“There was plenty of hollering,” Larson said. “You couldn’t go anywhere.”

When asked who was separated, Larson said those standing in the group with other papers were all Hispanic

ICE spokesman Harold Ort in Postville did not confirm or deny that anyone had been detained, but went on to say that the children of those detained would be cared for and that “their caregiver situation will be addressed.”

“They were asked multiple times if they have any sole-caregiver issues or any childcare issues,” Ort said.

Aides to Braley said they have been told that “hundreds” of arrests are expected because the action is more of an “investigation” than an immigration raid, and specific individuals are being targeted for arrest as part of the investigation.

Counts described the events in Postville as a “single site operation.” He said he was not aware of any other immigration raids being conducted elsewhere Monday.

Postville Police Chief Michael Halse said he did not know anything about the raid until Monday morning.

Postville is a community of more than 2,500 people that includes natives of German and Norwegian heritage and newcomers who include Hasidic Jews from New York, plus immigrants from Mexico, Russian, Ukraine and many other countries.

The Agriprocessors plant, known as the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse, is northeast Iowa’s largest employer.

About 200 Hasidic Jews arrived in Postville in 1987, when butcher Aaron Rubashkin of Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood reopened a defunct meat-packing plant with his two sons, Sholom and Heshy, just outside the city limits. Business boomed at the plant, reviving the depressed economy while pitting the newcomers against the predominantly Lutheran community.

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack said that the Postville immigration investigations were warranted despite concerns that federal official violated the constitutional rights of people in past raids.

“Remember our concern has not been about whether or not there should be raids,” Vilsack said. “It’s the way the raids have been conducted and the way in which American citizens’ rights have been violated by virtue of sort of a roundup process that’s used and what we think are inappropriate and unconstitutional actions on the part of immigration officials.”

Vilsack and others have alleged that immigration officials used humiliation, opposite-sex searches and long periods of secrecy in the Dec. 12, 2006, raids at Swift & Co. in Marshalltown, Iowa, where 90 people were arrested on immigration charges. UsaToday.com





Clinton holds big leads in West Virginia and Kentucky

12 05 2008

Even as her campaign appears to be in its final stages, Hillary Clinton is headed for two sweeping victories in West Virginia and Kentucky, the next two states to weigh in on the prolonged Democratic presidential race.

According to new polls released Monday, Clinton holds a 34 point lead in West Virginia and a 27 point lead in Kentucky.

In West Virginia, which votes Tuesday, a Suffolk University Poll has Clinton drawing 60 percent of likely Democratic voters compared to Obama’s 24 percent. That poll also shows Clinton holds a 70 percent approval rating among West Virginia’s Democratic primary voters. Only half the state’s primary the state’s likely primary voters think Barack Obama can beat John McCain in a general election matchup.

In Kentucky, a Research 2000 poll shows Clinton winning 58 percent of the vote to Obama’s 31 percent. But despite Clinton’s strength in the state, the poll suggests John McCain would easily defeat both Democrats in November — the Arizona senator holds a 25 point advantage over Obama and a 12 point lead over Clinton. Kentucky is considered a solidly Republican state, though former President Bill Clinton carried it twice. The state’s primary is May 20.

It remains unclear how Clinton’s likely large wins in both states will affect the presidential race, given Obama’s significant lead in total delegates. Only 28 pledged delegates are at stake in West Virginia Tuesday, while 51 are up for grabs in Kentucky. Cnn





Death toll in China earthquake up to nearly 9,000

12 05 2008

Cnn picture

CHENGDU, China (AP) — One of the worst earthquakes to hit China in three decades killed nearly 9,000 people Monday, trapped about 900 students under the rubble of their school and caused a toxic chemical leak, state media reported.

The 7.9-magnitude earthquake devastated a hilly region of small cities and towns in central China. The official Xinhua News Agency said 8,533 people died in Sichuan province and more than 200 others were killed in three other provinces and the mega-city of Chongqing.

Xinhua said 80 percent of the buildings had collapsed in Sichuan province’s Beichuan county after the quake, raising fears that the overall death toll could increase sharply.





NJ considering deposits for beverage containers

11 05 2008

New Jerseyans may soon pay as much as 20 cents extra when buying beverages in bottles and cans as part of an effort to boost recycling and combat litter.

On Monday, the Assembly Environment Committee is scheduled to discuss a 10-cent deposit for bottles and cans less than 24 ounces and 20 cents for larger ones up to 3 liters. The bill would apply to juice, sport drinks, water, soda, wine and beer containers.

Consumers would get the money back by returning the container to newly created redemption centers or to retailers. NJ.com





Rabbi, priests, sheriffs support Passaic imam in court

11 05 2008

A Jewish rabbi, Roman Catholic and Episcopalian priests, a federal prosecutor and two sherriffs took the witness stand today to heap praise upon a popular Muslim cleric as his attorneys began presenting their case for why he should not be deported.

Mohammad Qatanani, imam of the Islamic Center of Passaic County in Paterson faces deportation for allegedly failing to disclose on his 1996 green card application that he had been arrested and pleaded guilty to aiding the terrorist group Hamas in an Israeli military court three years earlier.

His attorneys argue that Qatanani was detained administratively, convicted in absentia and subject to interrogation tactics Israel’s top court later outlawed as torture.

Among the witnesses subpeonad by Qatatani’s lawyers was Assistant United States Attorney Charles McKenna, who described numerous trips to the Paterson mosque as part of an effort to create better understanding between law enforcement and the Muslim community.

As an example, he said investigators often interpreted the tendency of Muslim women to not look them in the eye as a sign of deceit. Through the dialogue at the mosque, they realized it is routine in Arab culture for women not to look men outside their family in the eye.

“It’s important for us to have leaders in the Islamic community who will be accepting of us and give us inroads in the community,” he said.

The sheriffs of two north Jersey counties echoed McKenna’s statements that the mosque’s open door policies had helped investigators become more familiar with cultural aspects of the Muslim community.

But they also described a more personal connection they had made through their cooperation with Qatanani.

“When I’m in his presence, and he does have a presence, this small, unassuming person, he doesn’t say “boo” but he gives me a better feeling of peace,” said Bergen County Sheriff Leo McGuire. “I feel better as a person to be with him.”

Jerry Speziale, the sheriff of Passaic County echoed McGuire’s testimony saying Qatatani “radiates peace.”

Christopher Brundage, one of two Department of Homeland Security attorneys serving as prosecutors in the case, pressed Speziale and McGuire, asking if they would have different opinions if they had known about Qatatani’s alleged ties to Hamas.

Speziale said he would need to see proof of the conviction himself. McGuire said, “It would surprise me,” but added, “it cannot change my mind about what I have observed.” NJ.com





New Jersey Trooper injured helping accident victim

8 05 2008

State police say a trooper severed an artery helping a man get out of his truck after an accident off Route 80 in Allamuchy Township.

Sgt. Stephen Jones says Trooper Cesar Garces pulled into a rest area after a pick-up slammed into the back of a tractor-trailer around 2 a.m. today.

Jones says Garces used a flashlight to break the window of the pick-up truck so the driver could get out. The trooper sliced his wrist, severing the artery.

Garces and the driver, Paul Villano, were airlifted to Morristown Memorial Hospital.

Garces underwent surgery and was released. Villano, whose condition isn’t known, is charged with driving while intoxicated. NJ.COM





Israel turned 60 today

8 05 2008

 

Israel celebrated the 60th anniversary of its creation today with fireworks, air force flyovers and street parties, but the atmosphere of heady jubilation was marred by doubts over future security and prospects for peace with the Palestinians.

A security crackdown sealing off the West Bank and Gaza and marches by Palestinians marking the expulsion of some 760,000 inhabitants as part of what they regard as the “Nakba” – the catastrophe – was a stark reminder of the uncertain future of the Jewish State.

Across the country, Israelis held barbecues in backyards and public parks and attended parachute jumps, a Bible quiz, concerts and the inauguration of a footpath around the Sea of Galilee.

The Nasa astronaut Garrett Reisman, the first Jewish crew member on the international space station, sent a greeting from space to the people of Israel. “Every time the station flies over the state of Israel, I try to find a window, and it never fails to move me when I see the familiar outline of Israel coming toward us from over the horizon,” the American-born astronaut said