Action: Helping Families Harmed in Iowa Immigration Raid

(2:00pm EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Over at Standing Firm you can read the terrible story of how our federal government is dealing with the problems of immigration — by coming into small towns and raiding them, tearing families apart, and terrorizing an entire community.

On Monday, May 12, federal immigration authorities raided the Agriprocessors, Inc. meat packing plant in Postville, Iowa. This massive raid led to the arrest of more than 300 workers and quickly threw this small town of less than 3,000 people into chaos.

Throughout the last week family members have been desperate to get information about their loved ones, children are staying away from school for fear of leaving their homes, attorneys have been attempting with limited success to gain access to workers being detained by federal authorities, and the entire town faces an uncertain future. Fears are growing that the detained workers will soon be shipped across the country to be prepared for deportation without being able to speak with attorneys or family members.

Before I go any further into this story, there’s something we call can do to help:

The community of Postville is also organizing a humanitarian response to the raid. Please spread the word to individuals or institutions that would be willing to send donations to support families impacted by the raid. Donations should be sent to:

St. Bridget’s Hispanic Ministry Fund

c/o Sister Mary McCauley

PO Box 369

Postville, IA 52162

(mark “Postville Raid” in the memo)

For further information about providing material or monetary support, please call Sister Mary McCauley at (563) 537-0002.

For some context, here’s an editorial from the Lancaster Eagle Gazette.  Regardless of your views on illegal immigration, the actions of our federal government are nowhere near the best we can do in dealing with this issue:

ENFORCEMENT alone won’t solve problems. The repercussions of the workplace raid in Postville, Iowa, this past Monday, the largest single-site raid in the nation, are wrenching on so many levels.

Federal immigration agents and other law officers who descended on Agriprocessors Inc., the kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, were doing their jobs. They executed search warrants related to criminal activity, as well as a civil search warrant for people believed to be in the country illegally.

But that does not diminish the painful fallout from escalating raids resulting at least in part from the failure of Congress and the president to repair the nation’s broken immigration system. Such raids, though record in size, ultimately do little to resolve how this nation should sensibly regulate immigration levels or how it should address the 12 million illegal immigrants already in the U.S., many with children who are U.S. citizens. Voters should make it clear in the 2008 elections that they expect their elected representatives to pass practical, humane reforms.

Although a lot is left to be sorted out, consider:

The detention of hundreds of people has created turmoil for their families. Frightened residents of the northeast Iowa town gathered at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church for assistance. Children, picked up after school by relatives, don’t know the fate of their parents. Relatives and friends anxiously await word about those detained.

The future of some businesses seems uncertain. While rabbis told the Register on Monday that they were confident the plant, opened in 1987, would continue to operate, the raid disrupted business at least temporarily. Meanwhile, Hispanic businesses in downtown Postville were shuttered on Monday, including a grocery store and restaurant.

The community might lose vitality if it ends up with fewer residents and places of employment. Some of its ethnic diversity might be lost as well. Most of the detainees have said they are Guatemalans. Others are from Mexico, Israel and Ukraine.

It’s time to look at immigration reform as more than a political problem. It’s an economic and a social problem, as Postville illustrates. The U.S. work force needs the labor of new immigrants as it faces a shortage with baby-boomer retirements. The country needs the vitality that new immigrant bring to communities.

There’s a lot of problems that need solving.  Our wretched and broken immigration laws are one of them.  There were big problems at that meat-packing plant.  Because undocumented workers have to live in the shadows, they are often victim to horrible labor practices.  Strengthening our labor laws and unions would help in this area.  Finding a humane and reasonable policy to deal with the alleged 12 million undocumented workers in this country would help as well.

But raiding towns like this, terrorizing families, Halliburton built detention centers where folks not only do not receive medical care but are actually dying is not the answer.

From the New York Daily News:

The human rights scandal that immigration has become gets worse with every new revelation of official abuse, neglect and lack of accountability.

Over the last couple of weeks, it has become clear that the scandal goes beyond the raids that terrorize thousands of immigrant families, or the hodgepodge of local – and often racist – anti-immigrant laws that have emerged after Congress failed to pass a rational immigration law.

Recent revelations have exposed the blatant disregard for the lives of those detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its private subcontractors around the country. What goes on inside immigration detention centers points to a moral crisis that threatens to shred the nation’s basic values.

On May 5, New York Times reporter Nina Bernstein told the horror story of mistreatment, neglect and subsequent death of Boubacar Bah, who had been imprisoned at the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey.

The 52-year-old tailor from Guinea, who had overstayed his tourist visa, became one of 66 immigrants who have died – several of them in murky circumstances – while detained in immigration jails.

Shockingly, between January 2004 and November 2007, more detainees have perished while in custody of ICE than in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo combined.

(emphasis mine)

It’s no different than how we are treating detainees at Gitmo.  We are treating these families as though they are hardened criminals bent on destroying our communities when in fact they work hard and are good neighbors.

Please support the citizens of Postville and please call your Congressional rep to demand we no longer turn away from this issue for fear of alienating voters … that we all deserve good immigration laws and that no one deserves the kind of treatment we are seeing in Potsville, Iowa.

We can do better.  All it takes is for us to come together and demand it.

12 comments

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  1. … then we must fight against this policy as well.

    We can do better.

  2. … at the orange.

    • Alma on May 19, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    on an important issue where we can do something.  

    Thank You Kitty.

    • Alma on May 19, 2008 at 8:22 pm

    It really does belong there.

  3. thanks for writing about it and for the action link!!

    • RiaD on May 20, 2008 at 2:30 am
    • geomoo on May 20, 2008 at 9:38 am

    for when they come for the rest of us.  Ugh.  Thanks for the report. I had heard nothing about this.

  4. I live in Iowa and of course it’s a big story here.  The latest developements and links to several other stories on the Postville raid can be found on the Des Moines Register website.

    The meat-packing industry has been the target of several of these raids.  And yet the government does little or nothing to the executives of these businesses.  As usual they claim that the management of the Postville plant is under investigation, but no arrests have been made yet.  I’ll believe it when I see it.  Somehow we are supposed to believe these poor management people are the victims of a vast immigrant conspiracy against them.  

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