The New York Times reported yesterday that the nomination of Stephanie Rose to be the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa has fallen under criticism because of her key role in the criminal prosecution of nearly 400 undocumented Guatemalan farmers in Postville, Iowa in May 2008.

To me the issue is not whether Rose should be confirmed. That is for the Senate to decide. But first she has a moral and ethical duty to publicly answer for her role in the prosecutions, and give assurances that as the chief law enforcement officer for the Northern District of Iowa, Rose will approach each criminal prosecution with a sensitivity that she seemed to lack during the Postville prosecutions. At a minimum Rose needs to fully explain her role, including,

• The May 12, 2008 press release from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa announcing the temporary assignment of federal judges and court personnel to Waterloo, Iowa “in response to the … prosecution of numerous illegal aliens…” The press release was issued by the court before any of those arrested and charged had been found to be in the country illegally.

• The infamous “Defense Manual” that was, in reality, a guide to the conviction and deportation of the defendants.

• The use of the so-called “Fast Tracking” system, concocted by the government, which amounted to little more than a conviction/deportation assembly line that compromised the fundamental rights of the defendants in favor of expedited proceedings.

• The inadequate provision of CJA defense counsel to the immigrant workers, including mass hearings at which defense counsel were called upon to represent as many as 17 defendants at a time in a single, brief, proceeding, with some called on to do so on multiple occasions for multiple groups of defendants.

• The denial of access to immigration counsel for lengthy periods of time during “processing” and questioning.

• The lack of any assurance that each individual charged was afforded meaningful access to counsel familiar with both criminal and immigration law.

• The required use of an “exploding” plea agreement which contained an arbitrary 7 day expiration period without sufficient time given to the defendants to assess the case facts and forms of relief under the immigration law.

• The inappropriate, and arguably unlawful, use of “judicial removal” which lead to the automatic deportation of many defendants, despite close family ties to the U.S.

Did Rose at least raise her voice privately in opposition to the government’s use of coercive prosecutorial tactics against the undocumented immigrants, most of whom were uneducated Guatemalan farmers?

If not, why not?

Since her nomination, Rose’s supporters have tried to distance her from any discretionary role in the Postville cases claiming that the prosecutions were directed by the Department of Justice in Washington, DC. But, as The Times points out, this claim flatly contradicts the testimony of former Senior Associate Deputy Attorney General Deborah Rhodes who told the House Immigration Subcommittee last summer that the Postville prosecutions were planned by the local federal authorities. At the time, Rose was the Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa and, reportedly, third in the office chain of command.

Did Rose really have no clue that the Postville prosecutions were being planned by her colleagues? Did she really have no prior knowledge of the ICE Postville investigation or that criminal complaints and criminal arrest warrants for 697 Postville workers were being prepared and sought by her office in early April 2008? And, in light of the Supreme Court unanimous decision that the identity-theft law could not be applied to prosecute immigrants only because they used false Social Security or visa numbers, as it was in many Postville cases, does she still think use of the law as a hammer to obtain guilty pleas from the Postville defendants was appropriate?

As U.S. Attorney Stephanie Rose will serve as the chief law enforcement officer in the Northern District of Iowa and will be responsible for coordinating many investigations and prosecutions. She needs to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The public is entitled to nothing less.