Monday, February 23, 2009

abUSed: The Postville Raid

"...the desperate need for immigration reform needs a face, and that face might well be in Postville, Iowa."
~One of the many articles written about Postville

On May 12, 2008, Postville, Iowa experienced one of the most heavily armed and militarized immigration raids in U.S. history. 389 undocumented meatpacking workers were arrested and chained while working at Agriprocessors, Inc by 900 armed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.

In less than 4 days, over 3/4 of those arrested were fast-tracked through the U.S. legal system where, as one of the certified interpreters brought in to translate these cases testified, "defendants whose words he translated...did not understand the criminal charges they were facing or the rights most of them had waived." The defendants were allowed little time with their legal counsel--if any--and many did not understand why they were in criminal court.

Unlike previous raids were ICE apprehended undocumented immigrants to be deported, in Postville they were trying a new tactic: charging as many people as they could with criminal offenses. They then used these criminal charges--many of which carried a mandatory two-year sentencing--to persuade people to plead guilty to lesser immigration charges, spend 5 months in detention, and deportation.

While the legality of this ICE tactic is currently be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court, the devastation the Postville raid has had on the community is still evident. Families have become dependent on churches and other social services for food and shelter. The economy is tanking. U.S. citizen children are left in the foster care system or exiled to a country they have never seen. Restaurants who served the Agriprocessors workers have been forced to shut down. The company itself cut the jobs of even more workers and filed bankruptcy.

As I heard many faith groups and individuals who went to Postville to offer humanitarian relief after the raids say, the Postville raid created a natural disaster zone, only it was manmade.

abUSED: The Postville Raid is a documentary by acclaimed director Luis Argueta capturing the stories and effects of the Postville Raid. Even this short, 8 minute trailer gives a face to current, unjust enforcement practices and the dire need for comprehensive immigration reform in our country.

I encourage everyone to watch it and use the full documentary once it comes out as a educational tool for your communities.

For more information on the continued devastation in Postville, see this Times article that I included in my February 2nd news update.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting! I'm working with the director of the film, and we're pleased to have so much support. Your blog is great, keep up the hard work. E-mail me if you'd like more information on the film, future screenings or if you're interested in hosting the director at your local venue.