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Iowa News Analysis: Postville Agriprocessors Raid

posted on May 13, 2008 at 10:54 AM

David Pitt of the Associated Press shares his insights on Monday morning's immigration raids at Agriprocessors, Inc. meat processing facility in Postville.


Yeager: First, though, we turn to David Pitt of the Associated Press. And David, a lot of media busy today in Postville, Iowa. What's going on there?

Pitt: Postville in far northeast Iowa I guess it is has experienced an immigration, I guess we call it a raid, immigration officials came into a plant there, a meat packing plant, a kosher meat packing plant and it looks like they've taken about 300 people into custody so far, a little more than 1000 people work at that plant.

Yeager: And we're talking the Agriprocessors Incorporated complex and this is a facility that's been there for about 10 years. But this did not seem as a surprise to some people in that region because there was a story that started last Sunday in the Waterloo Courier talking about how the National Cattle Congress grounds in Waterloo were taken over by federal officials, specifically ICE. So, a lot of people thought Waterloo was going to be the place.

Pitt: Right. I think people thought that it would be a meat packing plant in Waterloo but this morning at about 10:00 the officials from ICE and some Iowa State Patrol officers and local police, a couple of helicopters, some buses and vans all kind of converged on the meat packing plants. It's our understanding that the meat packing plant officials were notified that it was going to happen as they shut down the production to be safer. And so they started dividing people up according to whether they had identification on them and what type of identification they had.

Yeager: Initially the reports were around 700 of the 1000 workers there. That number, you said, is closer to 300 now. What has changed and why has that number gone down?

Pitt: I think the number 700 was put out by a member of our congressional delegation who said that his staff was told by immigration officials that it could be as high as 700, I think that was kind of an early estimate. Of course, the number is 300 as of now. They're still working on it this afternoon and so we'll see what happens by the end of the day. I think they said they'd have a better solid number tomorrow.

Yeager: And there was a news conference earlier this afternoon in Cedar Rapids by the U.S. Federal Court, the district attorney down there. This is something Iowa has now all of a sudden become a little more familiar with and how this is played because we had the raids in Marshalltown. It used to be these raids were smaller. Why are we seeing larger raids and a larger effort going after some of these?

Pitt: Well, the Marshalltown plant was in late 2006 and I think part of the reason is these meat packing plants are larger, there are a lot of employees. I think it's our understanding there are few more than 1000 at this plant in Postville. I talked with a Catholic nun this afternoon, this morning who told me that a number of the people that work there are from Mexico and Guatemala and the assertion is that they're looking for people who may have stolen identities or improper social security numbers or may be in the country illegally. So, those are the things that they're looking for as they look through the identification that these people have.

Yeager: Did she talk about the mood of some of the people coming to see her, family members left behind?

Pitt: She did and she mentioned that it was a tearful morning for a lot of people. It happened very quickly, helicopters flying overhead, people taken away, being put up against a fence at the plant and their hands were tied. So, it was a scary scene I'm sure for family members. There were people crying coming to the church which is about five blocks away from the plant and just afraid and the church was providing, obviously, some place of safety and giving some advice to the family members about what they can do.

Tags: agriculture Iowa meat news