LatinaLista — On Monday, May 12, the biggest single-site immigration raid in the history of the country took place in Postville, Iowa where 389 suspected undocumented immigrants who were worked for Agriprocessors Inc., a kosher meat-processing plant, were detained.
Family members react to news of the immigration raid in Postville, Iowa.
The captured immigrants were quickly processed by the government at the makeshift headquarters set up at the local National Cattle Congress facility, and yet, while U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have told the local public that they are finished with rounding up undocumented residents in the area, local community leaders don’t believe it.
Carole Gustafson, president and founder of El Centro Latinoamericano in Waterloo, told Latina Lista that the Latino community is so on edge that local businesses are turning to her organization to reach out to them.
“I don’t trust (ICE). They say they’ve stopped but in the days after the raid in Postville, Latinos are reporting that they are being stopped on the street and taken to detention facilities,” said Gustafson. “It’s so bad that local businesses are reporting that their Latino workforce is not showing up for work and they want us to put out a statement saying that it’s alright now, but we can’t because we don’t know for sure.”
Saying that the region has become “open season on Latinos,” Gustafson says that even those who are citizens are experiencing their rights being violated and that while the initial fear over the raid has subsided, it’s not until ICE leaves the area that everyone will breathe a sigh of relief.
“Though ICE says they’re finished, I doubt it,” said Gustafson. “When you rent a place, like they did with the National Cattle Congress, until May 26 and they were able to process over 300 people in only four days, well, it sounds like they’re gearing up for something more, and the reality of the situation is that they’re not truthful.”
However, Gustafson and her colleagues can’t worry about ICE’s next step because they’ve been overwhelmed with trying to help the families left behind. In fact, on Thursday the organization issued a press release requesting financial help from the community.
Knowing that family members want to speak to their loved ones in detention, the Centro Latinoamericano is arranging for vans to transport family members across the state to those county jails that are housing the detainees. Yet, not everyone will be able to see their loved ones since each county jail has its own set of criteria for who can visit, when and how much notice needs to be given.
In those instances when family members can’t see one another, a phone call is needed to allay fears that everyone is fine. Centro Latinoamericano is trying to get phone cards for the detainees since they need cash to call out to their families.
While many donations have been received for the families, it’s cash that is needed most said Gustafson. She said that the last paycheck for these detainees was Friday but families can’t pick them up on behalf of the workers.
Gustafson says that many of these families live paycheck to paycheck and she worries what will happen when rents can’t be paid or there is any food left in these homes, many of which contain children.
To show their support for the detained immigrants, a vigil is going to be held Sunday at 1:30 at Queen of Peace Catholic Church. The vigil starts with a service and includes addresses by several community leaders and ends with a 3-mile solidarity march to the National Cattle Congress facility.
“I just can’t help but think that if I was in the same position, as some of these families, I would wish that someone would help me,” said Gustafson. “It’s more than just a legal versus illegal situation. It’s a humanitarian situation.”
To contribute to the fund for the families of those detained in a federal immigration raid at a Postville, Iowa, meat plant Monday, send donations to the St. Bridget Parish Hispanic Ministry Fund, c/o Sister Mary McCauley, P.O. Box 369, Postville, IA 52162.