Charges Filed Against Iowa Meat-Packing Plant
Sept 16, 2008
Iowa’s Attorney General filed 9,311 criminal charges against the managers and owners of the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant on September 9 for violations of the state’s child labor law. The Postville plant has been a focal point of public concern about the raids carried out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the human rights violations that often accompany them. In Iowa, advocates for victims of domestic and sexual violence have been heavily involved in trying to enforce Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) protections, and keep families together.
The complaint alleges child labor violations involving 32 youth under age 18; seven of them were under age 16. State law prohibits employing a child under age 18 in a meatpacking plant. The children at Agriprocessors allegedly worked more hours per day and more days per week than the law allows, and were not paid overtime. The state also alleges that plant managers concealed the youth during federal and state inspections, and exposed them to dangerous chemicals.
Most of the youth are undocumented, and are seeking special U-Visas, allowable under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act of 2000, to stay in the United States to testify at upcoming hearings. But there is a $545 filing fee for a U-Visa, which is prohibitive for many of the youth. Advocates are asking the Department of Homeland Security to waive the fees in this case.
“We are gravely concerned about the exploitation of women and children in plants like this one when labor laws are not enforced, and about the human rights violations that have accompanied some of these raids,” said Family Violence Prevention Fund President Esta Soler. “Everyone is entitled to humane treatment and due process, and some of those affected by the immigration raids around the country have rights under the Violence Against Women Act. We continue to ask officials to take all steps necessary to protect the rights and respect the dignity of all people.”
More information about regulations needed on T- and U-Visas is available here.