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Iowa News Analysis: Postville Raid Aftermath

posted on May 15, 2008 at 3:19 PM

Beck: At a forefront of the news this week is the largest immigration raid in the nation's history. On Monday, federal officials descended on a Kosher packing plant located in Postville and hauled away hundreds accused of being in the country illegally and in some cases of identity theft. They are housed at Waterloo's Cattle Congress fairgrounds where a make-shift courtroom has been set up for deportation hearings. In addition to the immigration angle, some other stories are emerging from the raid, including charges of abuse of workers at the plant and the political generosity of the plant owners. Kay Henderson is here with us with the latest on the matter. Kay, this story continues to unfold. What is new?

Henderson: I believe the latest is that the last of the deportation hearings will occur today at the Cattle Congress, the Electric Park Ballroom was converted into a courtroom to process folks ten at a time. I think a lot of that has been written about this brings to light the word sordid. Some of the things which informants were telling federal prosecutors about what was going on inside the Agriprocessors plant are troubling.

One of the stories that we did at Radio Iowa this week indicated that 90% of the Latino students in the high school at Postville were not there on Tuesday. Of course, the raid took place on Monday. And on Tuesday morning fully one-third of the students in kindergarten through eighth grade in Postville were not in attendance. So, those people have either been, you know, their family life has been disrupted by this raid or many of the folks who were living in town have decided to just vanish.

Beck: And there's a large church in Postville.

Henderson: A Catholic church which is providing haven to many of these folks. And as you mentioned another sub-plot to this evolving story is that the folks who run the plant who are Hasidic Jews have, in the past, made campaign donations mainly to Republicans but one key Democrat who received a campaign donation was Patty Judge who was running for Governor, she is now Iowa's Lieutenant Governor.

Beck: And so what do they believe those might have indicated?

Henderson: Well, it indicated that these people wished to become part of Iowa's political elite and perhaps influence legislators by making campaign contributions. That's why people give money. Money talks.

Beck: You mentioned the number of students missing now. This is a large part of Postville's population.

Henderson: And I heard State Senator Mark Zieman this week tell someone that he would describe his town, Postville, almost as a ghost town if it were not for all the media who have descended upon Postville to do stories.

Beck: So, clearly the workforce will be missed in the sense of who will do that work now?

Henderson: Well, and Agriprocessors, as I am led to understand it -- they, by the way, have not responded to any of our calls for comment at Radio Iowa -- as I understand it through other sources they have recently expanded the plant so they may find it difficult to find an adequate work source in that area to keep things processing at the rate at which they are processing and we should probably mention this is the nation's number one Kosher meat packing plant.

Beck: Alright, so they have provided a lot of product.

Tags: agriculture Iowa meat news