5:40PM EST: The Des Moines Register reports: A day after drawing fire from Iowa’s governor, the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant took heat from a presidential candidate.
Democrat Barack Obama alluded to the controversial plant while answering an immigration question from a voter here today.
“We’ve got to crack down on employers who are taking advantage of undocumented workers,” he said. “When you read about a meatpacking plant hiring 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds – that is some of the most dangerous, difficult work there is. … They have kids in there wielding buzz saws and cleavers? It’s ridiculous. And the only reason they’re hiring these folks is because they want to avoid paying people decent wages and providing them decent benefits.”
Obama didn’t name Agriprocessors, but he was responding to a woman who asked about the situation in Postville. The plant has been accused of hiring underage and illegal-immigrant workers, though managers deny doing so knowingly.
Besides cracking down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, Obama said the country should strengthen its borders while making it possible for longstanding residents who are here illegally to earn citizenship by paying fines and back taxes and learning English.
“We’re a nation of laws and we’re a nation of immigrants, and I think those two things can go hand in hand,” he said.