Immigration Raid in Iowa
by Peter Menkin 1/20/2009 / Politics
It's the largest immigration raid in United States history, occurring May 12, 2008, whose repercussions continue Postville as the Iowa religious community continues its reaction. It's also a raid on the largest employer in Northeast Iowa, and the largest kosher meat packing plant in America. One church leader calls it a "human-caused disaster."
According to The Washington Post, the meatpacking firm founded by Aaron Rubashkin is "the largest" producer of glatt kosher beef, made to strict kosher standards. The plant produces under brands such as Iowa Best Beef, Aaron's Best and Rubashkin's.
The New York-based Orthodox Union, which certifies kosher facilities, says the plant supplies 50 percent of the nation's highest-kosher chickens, and a third of its meat products.
The raid, conducted in the town of 2600 in Postville, Iowa, despite its diversity, is primarily Lutheran. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America Bishop, The Reverend Doctor Steven L. Ullestad, says in an email to Religious Intelligence:
"Service providers are working day and night to provide care for children with no food, babies in need of diapers and families in need of homes. Non-immigrant children are grieving the loss of friends and fearful that ICE will come and take their parents as well. The school and businesses have been gutted. One lifelong citizen of Postville asked, 'Why did the government decide to destroy our town?'
"We must work so that the United States government never again does this to entire community. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has declared the ICE intervention in Postville a human-caused disaster. This commits our church to the long term recovery of the community."
According to the Des Moines Register, The U.S. attorney's office said there were criminal warrants for 697 people in the case. There were 389 arrests, including 306 on criminal charges. That meant more than 300 warrants remained outstanding. Charges include use of false identification documents and false use of Social Security numbers.
Some economic statistics on illegal immigration:
(1) eliminating the estimated 8.1 million undocumented workers in the United States would cause $1.757 trillion in annual lost spending,
(2) and $651.5 billion in lost output.
(3) Iowa's economy would lose $4.4 billion in annual spending if all undocumented workers were exported from the state.
(4) There are approximately 25,000 illegal workers in Iowa.
Many of those arrested were Guatemalan, and the Catholic Church provided respite, and solace to them. "It is my privilege to serve the needs of these people," says Sister Mary McCauley, who is St. Bridget's Catholic Church pastoral administrator. "[but] I don't know why they have left it to the faith community alone," Time magazine reports. The Catholic Church was most prominent in their direct help of all the denominations. One illegal immigrant named Veronica was quoted as saying, "We can't work. We can't provide for our kids. God bless the church,"
"Leaders in the Roman Catholic community, as well as many other religious leaders, have called for comprehensive immigration reform..." says Archbishop Jerome Hanus of
Through its Jewish Telegraph Agency, a news service, the Jewish community, response included the statement, "As Jews, it is our obligation to advocate for fair treatment of the 390 detainees in Postville and the millions of other undocumented workers nationally, who are "strangers in a strange land. As a nation, it is time for us to return to the core values forged by the teachings of our great religions and fundamentally reject our current illegal immigration system."
The Episcopal Church Diocese of Iowa on its website made the statement, "the Christian communities especially in the north east, including our own Episcopal community in Waverly are active in providing for the families in Postville."
The Episcopal Church in Iowa says it is a sanctuary Diocese, "granting places of safety for those who have traveled here as immigrants... We are seeing how important such a place has been for the Hispanic community in Postville who were able to gravitate to the Catholic Church in Postville for sanctuary."
Lutheran Church sums up the church position with, "Immigrants being detained in public jails is a sign of a broken system, which is why we as a church must strengthen our voices to call on our country for a just immigration policy."
Conventional political wisdom has it, according to newspaper reports, the present administration is following a policy of raids so that businesses and Congress will support the immigration changes sought by President Bush, including a temporary-worker program and earned legalization.
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Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA where he writes poetry. He is an Oblate of Immaculate Heart Hermitage, Big Sur, CA and that means he is a Camaldoli Benedictine. He is 64 years of age as of 2010.