DECEMBER 30, 2008
An Iowa senator abused his power as a committee chair to secretly steer millions of tax dollars from an environmental program to a small-town meatpacking company notorious for hiring illegal immigrants.
In fact, the meatpacking company— Postville-based Agriprocessors—was forced into bankruptcy earlier this year after a federal immigration raid resulted in the arrest of nearly half its workforce. In the nation’s largest single-site enforcement operation, immigration authorities arrested nearly 400 illegal aliens for aggravated identity theft, fraudulent use of Social Security numbers and other crimes.
The raid rocked the tiny town of about 2,200 residents and forced Agriprocessors, the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the United States, into bankruptcy. For years the area’s largest employer knowingly hired illegal immigrants, who often used bogus documents or identities stolen from unsuspecting Americans.
In fact, the company’s management facilitated the fraud by selling undocumented workers fake immigration papers, including fraudulent U.S. resident alien cards and new identities. One Agriprocessors supervisor pleaded guilty in August to conspiring to hire illegal immigrants and aiding and abetting their hiring.
Incredibly, it was U.S. tax dollars—provided by a veteran legislator—that kept the meatpacking company from going under years ago. An Iowa newspaper report says that, without multi million-dollar federal boosts provided by Senator Tom Harkin, Agriprocessors would have likely gone out of business long before the May immigration raid.
Harkin managed to get the meatpacking plant $8 million from a Department of Agriculture environmental program that the company was not eligible for. As chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, the influential Democrat lawmaker wields tremendous power over the Department of Agriculture and in 2004 he used an appropriations bill to direct the money to his beloved Postville meatpacking plant.
In addition to the agriculture money, the state’s largest employer of illegal immigrants also received $1.3 million in federal economic development money and nearly $200,000 from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
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