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Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.

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Vinton farmer ordered to pay $150,000 in immigration suit

By Lynda Waddington | 04.22.11 | 10:14 am

A Benton County dairy farmer and his company will pay $150,000 in fines following a guilty plea that he knowingly employed three illegal aliens.

Kenneth C. Birker, 62, of Vinton, received the sentence after entering into a plea deal in January, admitting to one count of engaging in a pattern or practice of knowingly employing illegal aliens. At that same January hearing, Birker also entered a guilty plea on behalf of his business, Birker, Inc., to one count of harboring illegal aliens for commercial advantage or financial gain.

In November 2001, as the president of Birker, Inc., Birker hired a husband and wife who were illegal aliens. In May 2004, Birker hired a third illegal alien who was a family member of the others. During their employment, Birker learned the husband and wife had illegally entered the U.S. from Mexico and were undocumented. He also learned the three employees did not have drivers’ licenses.

Court documents indicate that the situation was unearthed when the company unsuccessfully attempted to obtain health insurance for the workers in 2003, and when the workers attempted to legalize their status in the U.S. during 2004. All three workers were taken into custody at the farm by federal agents in 2006. The case against Birker and the farm has been ongoing since that time.

During court hearings in 2007, Jose Alfredo Tinajero-Uribe and Alejandra Sababia-Lule relinquished their attorney-client privilege and testified in material witness depositions that they contacted Miryam Antunez de Mayolo, a Cedar Falls immigration attorney, roughly two years before their arrest in order to take steps to legalize their status. They indicated they met with the attorney at her office, and 15 days later the two accompanied by Ken Birker and his sister, Bonnie Birker, met with the attorney at the farm.

While being deposed, Tinajero-Uribe testified that the attorney discussed “the form that she was going to send him so he can sign. Sarabia-Lule testified that the attorney and Birker discussed what would need to be done “so that can fix the paper legal in this country.” At some point during the farm meeting, Tinajero-Uribe and Sarabia-Lule paid the attorney half of her customary fee of $5,000.

Several months later, according to the undocumented workers, the attorney informed them that Birker had not followed through on tasks related to their case. When they approached him, the two were told that he had been too busy on the farm. When federal agents later arrived at the farm, Birker told them, according to court documents, that he was working with the attorney to apply for labor certificates and that the process was pending. Both the attorney and Birker agreed that he had never paid for her legal services in connection with the case. The attorney informed the federal agents that Birker “changed his mind regarding the labor certificates in or about March 2005 when the regulations regarding labor certificates changed.”

A court battle ensued in which the government sought to admit paperwork discovered at the farm into evidence, and Birker resisted on grounds that the documents were subject to attorney-client privilege. A magistrate judge found that Birker knew or should have known after meeting with the attorney that the workers did not have legal status, and yet continued to employ them. Given that fact, according to the judge, the government’s crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege applied and the documents would be allowed as evidence following an “in camera” review by the judge. The company, Birker and the attorney appealed the decision, but the decision stood.

According to farm subsidy data collected by the Environmental Working Group, Birker Inc. has collected more than $1 million in federal commodity subsidies since 1995, including $105,508 during 2009. The vast majority, or nearly $700,000, has come in the form of corn subsidies and nearly $200,000 were part of dairy program subsidies. The company has also received limited funds since 1995 for soybeans, livestock, barley and oats. About $250,000 of the federal funds were delivered as direct payments.

Birker was appointed in February 2010 to a one-year term as director of the Iowa Beef Industry Council, a trade advocacy organization.

Both Birker and Birker, Inc. were sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Chief Judge Linda R. Reade. Birker was sentenced to one year probation. Birker, Inc. was sentenced to 1 year probation and ordered to pay a fine of $32,000 and forfeit an additional $118,000.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Peter Deegan and was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Vinton Police Department, and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office.

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  • George Kirkman


  • BajaRat

    It’s scumbags like Birker who are largely responsible for the illegal alien onslaught.

  • all the world's a stage

    Probation? Seriously?

  • Anonymous

    What the hell is a dairy farmer doing on a beef council board?

    • Anonymous

      Well, they do eventually retire dairy cattle….

  • Anonymous

    Hope this teaches him a lesson. Did they deport the illegal laiens?

  • Wendy Peterson

    Remember the issue relating to videos and farm animal abuse? Where’s the video that caught the farmers hiring and harboring illegals? It looks like the current system is working, without the video cameras and the idiots attached to them.

    • Anonymous

      *sigh* Wendy, it’s pretty obvious to identify the abused animal in a video. It’s the one being kicked, beaten, shocked, or forklifted while it screams and bawls.

      How, exactly, do you propose to catch illegals on video and identify them as such from the video? Will they be wearing a label which says “Yo soy Illegal”?

      • Wendy Peterson

        And here’s idiot number two.

        • Anonymous

          Heh. At least we know you can count. Now put your shoes back on.

    • Anonymous

      Wendy want a cracker?

      • Wendy Peterson

        Here’s idiot number one.

        • Anonymous

          Since you have demonstrated your inability for higher level thinking in numerous posts, I will respond in a manner you can understand.

          Takes one to know one!

          Caught your latest Internet video W.P. Or should I call you Bibi? Anyway, your video is AWESOME!!

  • Anonymous

    It’s an interesting case. If he was hiring them for the exploitive advantages associated with hiring illegals (underpaying, ignoring safety regs, etc) why bother trying to get them health insurance? But if he was trying to give them a leg up (which the initial contact with the lawyer suggests), why did he drop the ball?

    The penalty seemed a bit stiff, given that there were three employees. If they doubled the penalty for industries that advertise south of the border for illegals, then knowingly hire them (as opposed to hiring them, discovering they’re here illegally, but not firing them), and then launched a few raids on (insert major meat packing and produce companies here), we could fund Planned Parenthood for years!

    • Anonymous

      Not stiff enough. So long as employers knowingly break the law and get by with a slap on the wrist, fines then become the cost of doing business. He should have had to do some jail time or at least be under house arrest.

      • Anonymous

        Normally, I’d heartily agree. There are a lot of industries that go out of their way to hire illegals, because they can pay less, work ‘em harder, and not worry about repercussions. But it seems likely he wasn’t aware they were illegals when he hired them. And afterwards, he may have had an emotional connection that altered his perception of the situation. It’s a lot harder to kick someone to the curb if they’ve been part of your team for a while. I don’t know that he was acting in part out of compassion, but it seems more likely than, say, the folks running Agriprocessors.

  • Anonymous

    Learn what you can do to help stop illegal immigration.

    • Anonymous

      And if you find yourself frustrated with other groups of people who don’t match your skin tone, try this one:

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