Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Postville Solidarity Leads to Call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

As I posted yesterday, May 12 marked the one-year anniversary of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid on the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa. The raid resulted in 389 arrests and the downward fall of the city that was once known as the "Hometown to the World."

Today, instead of "Hometown to the World, " a billboard on the outskirts of town reads "ICE Raids Destroy Communities." The town, which before the raid had a population of about 3,000, now has less than 1,800 people in its community. The economy of Postville is tanking. The plant has declared bankruptcy. There is rising unemployment. And families affected by the raid are increasingly dependent on now almost nonexistent aid. The community is destroyed.

Yet Postville stands as a symbol of solidarity and commitment to humane immigration reform.

To remember the tragic event of the Postville raid yesterday, churches and communities across the country held prayer vigils, rang church bells and shofars, and wore red ribbons to commemorate the day and to call on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

Saint Bridget's Catholic Church in Postville led the national solidarity movement, holding a prayer vigil to commemorate the raid, followed by a "solidarity walk" to the Agriprocessors plant. More than 650 people from Postville and around the Midwest participated in the two events.

Churches in Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois rang their church bells 389 times to honor each person that was detained during the Postville raid. The ringing began at 10 am, exactly when the raid began one year ago, and continued for an hour as they recognized each person who was seized.

Other groups called the anniversary of Postville a "Wake-up Call" to action on comprehensive immigration reform. As one pastor said, "God's people can never close their hearts to the alien, because we too were once strangers in a household to which we've been graciously welcomed...what, then, is God calling us to do? As people of faith of all kinds, we're to remember what God has so graciously done for us. We are to welcome, to embrace, to acknowledge, to treat with dignity, to even grant citizens' rights - just as God so graciously welcomed us into his community and into faith."

All-in-all, over 40 communities around the country held vigils or rallies yesterday to demonstrate their solidarity with Postville. When asked why, the answers were the same.

Justice. Equality. Community. The call to welcome the stranger.

As one religious leader in Postville said, “Everyone in Postville has suffered as a result of the raid, not just the immigrant workers. We need to end the inhumane treatment of the workers from Postville and people like them throughout the United States who have suffered the same indignities.”

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