The Quad-City Times editorial
No one denies that children worked excruciating hours for pittance wages at Agricprocessors Inc. in Postville. No one can deny the company willfully hired hundreds of workers with phony immigration documentation — or none at all.
A federal jury affirmed that former Agricprocessors CEO Sholom Rubashkin led a conspiracy to defraud investors. A federal judge in Cedar Rapids sentenced Rubashkin last week to 27 years in prison for defrauding investors. [sic]
He was acquitted of responsibility for the uncontroverted hiring of minors. The feds dropped charges against him for the 389 illegal immigrants seized in the May 12, 2008, raid at the plant.
Rubashkin and his supporters intend a vigorous appeal of his sentence.
We wish them no luck.
Federal jurors might not have been able to pin the immigration and child-labor law violations directly to Rubashkin. Most witnesses were illegal immigrants who acknowledged lying about their status, jeopardizing their credibility to the jury.
Still, no one can deny a company ruled with an iron fist by Rubashkin created the humanitarian nightmare that led to the biggest illegal immigration raid in Iowa history.
The 27-year prison term will hit hard for Rubashkin, who at age 51 called the term a life sentence. In trial testimony, he’s admitted, “I made mistakes, a lot of them,” and apologized to the community.
Yet some of his Chabad supporters, followers of an orthodox sect of Judaism, decry the prosecution as an injustice spurred by ethnic hate.
The only injustice we see is the misery inflicted upon Iowa, Postville and, particularly, hundreds of illegal immigrants. Their crime was flouting U.S. immigration law and all have been severely punished with the maximum penalty: Deported back to Central America, stripped of their jobs and property and, in some cases, separated from families.
Rubashkin’s punishment is far less than the 43-year maximum allowed by federal law. Federal prosecutors cut him a major deal by dismissing the flagrant immigration offenses.
So we count him as lucky.
The plant he so inhumanely managed has been purchased and reopened by another Jewish kosher processor.
Hershey Friedman, Agri Star chief executive officer, has initiated a $7.5 million upgrade and boosted Postville plant employment to 560.
He’s complying with federal hiring laws, restoring relations with Iowa livestock producers and demonstrating that the Agriprocessors’ nightmare was the result of a felon’s greed and reckless choices.
Let Rubashkin and some of his Chabad kin cry about injustice. Let Friedman and his Agri Star successors show how an honest, compassionate and profitable kosher business can be run in Iowa.