Iowa Public Television


Rural America Still Reeling From Immigration Raids

posted on March 2, 2007

Last December, in a move demonstrating the government's resolve on illegal immigration, federal agents arrested nearly 1,300 workers during raids at meatpacking plants in six states operated by Swift and Company.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE agents conducted the raids -- which would become the largest in U.S. history.

The arrests temporarily shut down operations at Swift facilities in all six states as nearly nine percent of the workforce was detained for questioning.

In Marshalltown, Iowa, where ICE agents arrested 90 workers suspected of illegal immigration and, in some cases identity theft, the community is still reeling.

This week, Marshalltown held a town meeting of sorts, hoping to ease tensions and shape the future of U.S. immigration policy.

Rural America Still Reeling From Immigration Raids

Rep. Tom Latham R-Iowa: "What we learn today will be very important for our country, our community and our state."

This week, federal, state, and local officials held a national immigration summit in Marshalltown - looking to spread information and answer questions.

Ted Kamatchus, Marshall County Sheriff: "The individuals who have come across that border form nothing more than a form of contraband to this country. And that same form of contraband brings us our drugs and could bring us weapons of mass destruction."

Carlos Rios, Executive Director of Immigrant Rights Network for Iowa and Nebraska: "Immigrants are human beings like you and me. They are more than just workers, they are family and members of our society and are an essential part of the fabric of the United States and the future of the United States."

While much of the summit involved relatively calm discussions, some members of anti-immigration groups were forced to leave after interrupting the event.

Questions and comments concerning the current legal situation at Swift were not part of the community summit. But panelists and attendees often shifted the discussion towards all aspects of immigration policy.

Chris Clausen, Attorney, Marshalltown, IA: "With regard to the individuals who are working under assumed identities, they still take taxes taken out of those checks but you don't see those people filing for a tax return. That would be inviting law enforcement to come pick them up."

Matt Whitaker, U.S. Attorney Southern District Iowa: "The number one priority of the Department of Justice is the prevention of terrorism. Numbers two and three are the prosecution of violent criminals and drug trafficking. Enforcement of immigration laws is fourth or lower…"

Speaking after the summit, U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker emphasized that while his office prosecuted 30 individuals from the Marshalltown raid – no criminal charges against Swift and Company have been filed.

Matt Whitaker, U.S. Attorney Southern District of Iowa: "A grand jury or the investigators have not found enough evidence to demonstrate that Swift has done anything illegal… I would not suggest that Swift is currently a target but at the same time there is an ongoing investigation."


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