In a rural Iowa town that was once a bustling model of small-town resurgence, scores of families are left to rely on local food pantries and churches for their meals. Parents have been left to watch over their children while wearing ankle bracelets but are unable to seek work to provide for them. The school’s population has been halved, and a gang of minors makes a weekly trip to Cedar Rapids to report to the local Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency which monitors their status. There’s nothing left to do but wait. Their fate doesn’t rest in their own hands, reports New America Media in a series of articles on the effects of the largest immigration raid in history has had on a local community.
And they are the lucky ones. Nearly 400 workers were arrested and detained in the largest immigration raid in history at Agriprocessors, a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. Three-quarters of these workers were hustled through the legal system in a matter of a few weeks — arrested, detained and then allowed to plead guilty to charges they didn’t understand, unaware that they were facing criminal charges and were being sent to prison for sentences averaging five months each. The treatment of these workers lead a long-time court interpreter and college professor, Erik Camayd-Freixas, to break his professional code of silence to report on the abuses that these workers faced in a 12-page essay that made national headlines. After serving time in jail, largely for identity theft including social security fraud, the workers will be deported back to their home countries, torn apart from their wives or children who are under government supervision in Postville.
For Agriprocessors, however, it’s back to business as usual. After a dip in production and escalating Kosher meat prices (the company produces about 40 percent of the country’s Kosher meat) production is nearly back to normal reports the Jewish Journal. So far only two low-level managers have been charged, despite the government accusing Agriprocessors of paying workers below the federal minimum wage, hiring minors, numerous safety violations and allegations of worker abuse that included a manager duct-taping one workers’ eyes and beating him with a meat hook. The company has also been accused of providing workers with false documentation, such as social security cards, to work at the plant.
There appears to be a stark disparity in the government prosecution of those who work illegally in this country and those who provide them with work despite bombastic claims by ICE officials that employers are no longer safe from prosecution.