Postville, Iowa: One Year Later

Last year on Monday,  May 12, as spring was just beginning, “Irma” and “Jose” were on their lunch break at the meatpacking plant, Agriprocessors, in Postville, Iowa, just 20 minutes from campus; “Rosita” was waiting in line to go out to recess with her other first grade classmates at the Postville Elementary School; Sister Mary was just arriving to the small office in St. Bridget’s, one of the three parishes where this seventy year old Catholic Sister served as Pastoral Administrator.  Then at 10 a.m., their worlds collapsed, and they have not been the same since….

On Monday, May 12, 2008, at 10:00 a.m., the small town of Postville, Iowa, population 2,300, was the site of one of the most brutal, most expensive, and largest immigration raids in the history of the US.  389 undocumented workers who had made Postville their home-contributing to the economy, enrolling their children in school, participating in local faith communities-were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.  As black hawk helicopters flew overhead, a force of 900 heavily armed operatives plus personnel from 11 other agencies shackled and detained close to a fifth of the town’s population.  The raid gained national attention for its devastating impact on the community, its excessive use of force, and especially for the unprecedented prosecution that followed. 


A year later, the raid in Postville has meant…

  • The “Hometown to the World” has lost close to 40% of its population
  • Storefronts stand empty, landlords have filed for bankruptcy, the city itself is broke, and the future of the company-which has also filed for bankruptcy-and the future of the town are uncertain
  • 55 U.S. born citizen children and close to 100 immigrant children have been uprooted and their lives disrupted. Some of those who are U.S. citizen-like “Rosita”-have been forced into exile and poverty, deported with their parents to a country they have never known. Many others have been separated from their loved ones, their friends, the only community they knew-and the emotional trauma and damage is incalculable
  • Close to 40 adults and 30 minors have been living in a legal limbo for the last 12 months: unable to leave and unable to return to work and provide for themselves and their families, they have been forced to rely on the community’s support and many of them have been scarred-emotionally and physically-by the monitoring devices they have worn since the day of the raid.
  • 40 additional individuals-after spending five months in prison unable to communicate or provide for their families-have been required to remain in the country and serve as material witnesses in the prosecution against their former employer. While they have now received work permits, they live with uncertainty about how long they will be here and struggle with the mounting debt that drove them to migrate to begin with, and that has only worsen in the last year


 Join with hundreds in our community and the nation who have dedicated countless hours to the humanitarian response.  Take the time to be informed and advocate.  Our nation needs to engage this complex, and important matter.  By our location and our education, we can help lead the nation toward comprehensive, immigration reform that serves our national economic and security interests, without destroying our communities and contradicting our deeply held values.