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DOJ accused of pushing guilty pleas on immigrants arrested in Iowa raid

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Thursday obtained and made available a government handbook [PDF download; press release] issued to the lawyers defending the illegal immigrants arrested in May during the massive raid on an Agriprocessors Inc. [corporate website] meatpacking plant in Iowa. The document contains pre-printed forms with blanks for the defendants' names, along with instructions for waiving constitutional rights and entering guilty pleas, but gave no guidance on pleading not guilty. Nearly 300 workers were sentenced to jail time and probation [New York Times report; JURIST report] after making their pleas over the course of just four days in temporary courtrooms at a local fairground. The manual provides a word-by-word script for judges, and was created before the raid even took place [LA Times report], facts that some say prove the Department of Justice (DOJ) improperly pushed the immigrants to plead guilty.

The release of the manual comes as the latest condemnation of the legal proceedings stemming from the raid, in which. Last month, the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary [official website]heard testimony [hearing materials] from lawyers and professors who argued that the government process used to arrest and convict the illegal immigrants in Iowa was illegal and violated due process [JURIST report]. Representatives from both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and ICE [testimony transcripts, PDF] defended the government's arrest and conviction processes, saying that the immigrants' constitutional rights were strictly applied. The American Immigration Lawyers Association [advocacy website] has criticized the government for severity of the charges and alleged breaches of due process for the accused [letter, PDF], but court-appointed defense lawyers for the workers said their clients were motivated to plead guilty because they did not want to risk receiving a minimum two-year sentence if found guilty after a trial.

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