Monday, September 25, 2006

You have to know that this is wrong.

Stillmore - If only it were as simple as campaign pledges and protest chants make it seem.

But talk to the folks in this Emanuel County town about illegal immigration and many will say there's no easy solution.

They should know.

Over Labor Day weekend, federal agents raided the local chicken processing plant and several homes in and around Emanuel County in east Georgia. They cuffed and arrested more than 120 illegal immigrants, mostly men, and took them away. . . .

[T]he raids clashed with the homespun sensibilities of this farming region.

"This is like the Gestapo was back in Germany in World War II, coming to snatch people out of their homes and all," Slater said. "That's not America. That's not the way it should be."

The Southern Poverty Law Center has interviewed people who said agents threatened to break down doors and use tear gas, said Mary Bauer, director of the center's immigrant justice project. Bauer says her group is "deeply concerned" about the way the raids were carried out in Stillmore and has talked to at least three American citizens who said they were caught in the round up. . . .

Men gathered recently for a sip of beer and bit of gossip at B&S Service Station in Stillmore talked of the raids. They said something ought to be done to stop people from coming over the United States' borders illegally. But some thought if an immigrant is here and working hard, they ought to be given a shot at being legal - maybe not citizenship, but something to protect them from being rounded up.

"These people are here to work. These people aren't trying to blow us up," said Keith Slater, the mayor's son. His family has run the service station near Stillmore's crossroads for 29 years.

The raids left many women and children behind, some without resources. Local churches are distributing food.

Maribel Cruz Sanchez, 19, says her husband went to work at the chicken processing plant that Friday and never came home. Her 2-year-old daughter, Samantha, an American citizen, keeps asking, "Where is Papi?"

America's immigration policy is broken and should be fixed. But this is not the way to do it. The immigrants in this story are as much victims of the policy as anyone, and this further brutality does no one any good.