Today marks the one year anniversary of the raid in Postville, Iowa where 389 people were arrested. In Postville and in communities across the country people are standing in solidarity with Postville and calling for justice and comprehensive immigration reform. You can TAKE ACTION NOW by standing in solidarity as well by sending a letter to your representatives through the Interfaith Immigration Coalition’s website. For more information on the history and the current situation in Postville, read the summary below from Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, or check out the articles at the end of this post.
Impact of Immigration Raid on Postville
On May 12, 2008, helicopters and dozens of agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) descended upon Postville, a small Iowa town with a population just over 2,400. ICE conducted an immigration raid of the Agriprocessors plant, apprehending 389 immigrant workers, nearly 20 percent of the town’s population. ICE officials used the National Cattle Congress [click for video] in Waterloo, Iowa, to temporarily hold workers. Many workers were then transferred to detention facilities in Iowa and across the country and have since been deported from the United States. Sole caregivers among the apprehended were released from detention with electronic monitoring devices, but were prohibited from working. One year later, 24 of these caregivers and their children still rely upon charities for food, medical care, housing and financial support offered primarily through St. Bridget’s Catholic Church with the assistance of churches and groups nationwide. The faith community also supports individuals required to remain in Postville to assist as material witnesses in the federal and state criminal investigations of Agriprocessors.
The prosecutors used aggressive negotiating tactics, such as time-limited plea offers, and brought charges of aggravated felony identify theft against the workers, nearly all of whom were represented by overburdened appointed counsel. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that the government overstepped in applying such charges.
Twelve months following the raid, devastating ripple effects continue to impact every corner of the Postville community. Hundreds of families have either been separated by deportation or have left Postville. Others remain in legal limbo, waiting for the completion of their cases. Many businesses have closed, boarding up their windows. More businesses face bankruptcy. Decreased student enrollment will likely force the Postville schools to consolidate with other school districts.
In sum, the federal government spent over $5.2 million to conduct the raid. Given the extreme hardship Postville and surrounding Iowa communities have suffered, many question whether these taxpayer funds were properly spent.
On the anniversary of the raid in Postville we are reminded that harsh enforcement measures put children at risk, divided families and drove other immigrants even farther into the shadows. The raids threw an entire community into disaster and economic peril as a result of a failure to recognize that immigrants and refugees are integral to our communities and to America’s economic, cultural, social and political fabric.
Articles & Resources:
United Methodist News Service Report
A People in Peril: Archdiocese of Dubuque on Postville Relief
Reflection on Postville by UM missionary, Jim Perdue Burke
Interfaith Vigil in Waterloo, IA