Saturday, September 27, 2008

Meanwhile, what's happening back in Postville IA?

photo caption: Protesters flocked to a pro-immigrant rally in Postville, IA in July 2008.

Regular readers here joined the national outrage over the immigration raid conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in tiny Postville, IA May 2008. Nearly 400 undocumented immigrant workers at Agriprocessors, a kosher meat packing plant, were arrested on criminal--not immigration--charges in what was until that point the largest ICE raid in U.S. history. What has happened since we last visited Postville (a month ago or so)?

* Its claim to fame as site of the largest-ever raid melted like an ice cone at the state fair. In late August U.S. immigration cops nabbed 595 workers in Laurel, MS. Iowa apparently was a training camp for even bigger projects on ICE's to-do list.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, filed a federal complaint against Agriprocessors saying it violated the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act (as caught on plant videotape.)

* In early September
the Iowa attorney general on Tuesday brought an array of criminal charges for child labor violations against the owners and top managers of a meatpacking plant--over 9,000 charges! Human rights activists across the nation exalted.

Further, two Agriprocessors Inc. human resources employees named in state charges were arrested and charged additionally with document fraud and identity theft. In reaction, the Orthodox Union threatened to withdraw its kosher certification of the company within two weeks unless new management was hired.

* On the national scene, US Roman Catholic bishops in a formal statement condemned immigration raids on US workplaces, alleging they break up families and disrupt communities, without addressing the country's flawed immigration system.

* By 9/11 Agriprocessors recruited Pacific islanders from Palau to work at the meatpacking plant, in an effort to replace over half of the workforce lost in the raid. Meanwhile, the Postville police force hired additional help to fight the increase in crime since the raid. The Chief of Police speculated it may take years for the situation to normalize.

* Post-raid Postville looks like "an open-air prison" in which "good, decent" women and children without means of support but with "leg monitoring bracelets" rely on the community for survival. Local Catholic priest asks: "What kind of a government makes prisoners of 43 mothers who all have children and then says, 'You can't work, you can't leave and can't stay?' That boggles the imagination." The family breadwinners, meanwhile, are in "nine different prisons around the state," leaving the Postville community to support their families.

* By mid-September, a newly installed CEO promised that Agriprocessors would make fundamental changes.

* Questions arose on substandard housing in Postville since the raid. City officials are considering the unusual move of regulating rental properties in a small town. [Click the link for photos...if you're braced. Small town values, anyone?]

* This week the two human resources workers at Agriprocessors pleaded not guilty to federal charges they face on document fraud, identity theft and harboring undocumented aliens. Thus, a trial comes one step closer.

The soap opera which is Postville, IA continues to weave its tale of broken dreams, unscrupulous exploitation, and lives spinning out of control. Merely a month brings switchbacks and heartaches with a plot careening and lurching into a broken future.

Have mercy, indeed. Have mercy on them. Have mercy on us. We will continue to monitor the situation in Postville. How can we not?

Huge h/t to Letters and Papers from Postville for documenting events as they unfold.


Mariamariacuchita said...

Good lord, what a mess this government makes of almost everything it touches. The human has gone out the window of humanity when it comes to the decision-makers and policy wonks. Keep these posts coming...this is such an important topic.

Randal Graves said...

Don't you remember your Karate Kid? Mercy is for the weak!

This world is nuts.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

Thanks for updating us about what's happening there. It's mind-boggling how inhumane the situation is.

And on a totally unrelated note, there is an award for you at my place.

eProf2 said...

Thanks for the update. We've had nothing in our papers about Postville for some time now.

DivaJood said...

I think the Postville raid and the abuses by Agriprocessors has become the poster child of everything wrong with America. Greed, short-cuts, lies, dissembling, arrogance, brutality. Not what those immigrants expected when they came to this country - legally or illegally. No. They came seeking hope and wound up with leg bracelets to monitor their where-abouts.


Border Explorer said...

Maria, ditto all you said. Thanks for following this story.

Randal: I'm weak. Or nuts. Or both! Yikes, maybe I'm a Rethuglican??

Ruth, I'm honored whenever you comment here. Thank you so much. Really.

eProf, our SW news source, thanks for the update. Postville is old news now. Our citizenry so easily distracted...oh, btw, I got eyeglass frames like Sarah Palin's!

Diva, yes! ICE raid in Postville: a microcosm of all that's gone bad in the USA. Rot reaches into our rural heartland.

We must do better than this.

S. A. Hart said...

Thank you for this vital update. We should write mainstream media sources insisting they provide this information to the people, instead of the material that is being flogged as journalism.

FranIAm said...

I am sitting here weeping...

You can't work, you can't leave and you can't stay.

Soul-less business here and a mirror to our nation's essence. It is tragic.

Thank you not only for the update, but for your determined and ongoing commitment to this matter.

susan said...

Yes, thanks so much for continuing to post about this situation. With a media so tuned to infotainment all we can do is to count on one another to provide real information.

D.K. Raed said...

This really does boggle the mind. And now, Palau-ians? Wonder if they'll be paid any more or treated any better or have an avenue toward citizenship? The only thing I know about Palau is that Bush touted them as part of his original coalition of the willing. Wonder how really willing they are to work for Agriprocessors, in light of what when down.

Border Explorer said...

S.A. Hart: Welcome! I'm also discouraged by MSM due to their corporate ownership and profit-margin priority. I'm putting my energies into the internet these days.

Thanks, Fran, for admitting their pain into your heart. We must redeem our country. First, I suppose, I have to convert my own heart. You model the conversion process for me in your comment.

Susan, I appreciate your blog for exactly that: real information. Love your broad perspective through compassionate eyes.

D.K., your questions may be fodder for future posts. So much to many holes in my education. [sigh] Thanks for your comment; it leads me on.