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The Postville Raid
An immigration rally on July 27, 2008, in Postville, Iowa, held in protest of a federal immigration raid of the local Agriprocessors plant in May. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

An immigration rally on July 27, 2008, in Postville, Iowa, held in protest of a federal immigration raid of the local Agriprocessors plant in May. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

For a tiny town of 2000, Postville, Iowa has been tagged with a lot of superlatives lately. The biggest immigration raid in American history. The biggest Kosher meatpacking plant in the country.

And now, maybe the biggest scandal over slaughterhouse work conditions since Upton Sinclair wrote “The Jungle.”

On May 12, federal agents swooped in to round up nearly 400 mostly Guatemalan immigrant workers for prison time and deportation. Now comes the inside story of coercion, child labor, and cattle guts — a meat hook beating, and workers who say they felt like slaves.

This hour, On Point: The uproar in Postville.

Guests:

Julia Preston, national immigration reporter for The New York Times, she has been reporting from Postville, Iowa.

Erik Camayd-Freixas, a federally certified court interpreter, he served as translator for detainees arrested in the Postville raid.

Mark Lauritsen, international vice president and director of the food processing and packing division of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents 250,000 meat packers around the country.

Pastor David Vasquez-Levy, campus pastor at Luther College in Decorah, some 20 miles from Postville. He has ministered to the migrant workers at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville, and since the federal raid, he has worked with St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in Postville, the migrant workers’ church, to help the families of the workers now in jail.

Links:

“After Iowa Raid, Immigrants Fuel Labor Inquiries,” by Julia Preston (New York Times)

“An Interpreter Speaking Up for Migrants,” by Julia Preston (New York Times)

Read Erik Camayd-Freixas’ personal account of the Postville immigration raid (pdf format)

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  • Legal Immigrant

    I listened to The Postville Raid show last night. As a hard-working and LEGAL immigrant, I felt insulted by your guests who continuously and intentionally omitted the word ILLEGAL in referring to “immigrant workers.” In addition, the entire discussion was misleading the audience by steering away from the root cause of the problem. Well, slavery is illegal, and no one should be treated the way those illegal workers have been treated. However, coming into the US illegally breaks the US law too. Being afraid of deportation, they have to choose not to go public about the inhumane working conditions. It is their conscious decision to suffer from violation of one law (slavery) in order to avoid the penalty of breaking the other (illegal entry). Let’s face it: the illegal workers themselves are part of the cause of the problem. Slavery will continue to exist as far as illegal aliens are able to be hired. Labor exploitation is the ugly twin of employing illegal immigrants. Why doesn’t slavery happen to legal workers? The stem of the problem is that illegal aliens are welcome by certain employers because more work can be done at much lower costs without observing the labor law. It doesn’t help if the real issue is disguised in the fluff of “human rights” and “immigrant rights.” It’s the business ethics that is to be restored and defended by law – jail the employers who hire illegal immigrants and deport the illegal aliens from the US.

  • Val Heike

    My name is Val Heike in Waukon Iowa, I recall this raid it hasn’t stopped or helped anything. Illegal aliens are still being employed in a big way in Allamakee County.

  • Lil_hotty32

    If they are illegal or not they still don’t deserve to be treated the way they were being treated at that job! They shouldn’t have been forced to work long hours and got beaten with equipment! They is just horrible. Just because they were illegal doesn’t mean that they deserve to be physically hurt!

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