What are we trying to protect ourselves from? The Washington Post quoted a Mexican caught in the raid as saying, "I like my job. I like my work. I like it here in Iowa." He has raised his three children for 11 years in Postville, Iowa and he went on to say, “Are they mad because I'm working?"
From its wikipedia entry, “U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the largest and primary investigative arm of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for identifying, investigating, and dismantling vulnerabilities regarding the nation's border, economic, transportation, and infrastructure security.” ICE was established in 2003 and has a yearly budget that has grown to over $5 billion dollars a year. With its stated mission of protecting America and upholding public safety by targeting the people, money and materials that support terrorist and criminal activities one has to wonder how this massive raid in Iowa has furthered the stated goals by ICE?
Initially the reports of the raid in Postville had a much different spin. A number of reports on major news outlets emphatically stated the following, “Other illegal immigrants were found along with a methamphetamine laboratory.” These initial reports stated that a Kosher meat-packing plant in Iowa was raided because federal authorities charged that a methamphetamine laboratory was housed there and that employees carried weapons to work. Headlines like the following that quickly followed this statement only stoked the fire -- “Meth Lab Operated Out of Kosher Meat Plant in Iowa” or “Drugs made at Kosher Meat Plant”. Strangely or not so strangely as the facts started to come out these headlines disappeared and were replaced with headlines like, “Largest Immigration Raid in US History.”
In a story that ran a couple days later on the 14th of May in the “Times Republican” in central Iowa the following was said, “Multiple sources in the warrant application also said they saw what appeared to be underage workers at the plant. Another source cited in the warrant application, a former supervisor at the plant who was later fired, claimed to have seen a meth lab at the facility. The supervisor claimed to have been fired after trying to destroy the meth lab.”
Ben Harris of the Des Monies register wrote, “In laying the legal groundwork for a massive raid of the country's largest kosher slaughterhouse, federal authorities cited claims that the factory housed illegal narcotics production and employed hundreds of illegal immigrants, including several of the rabbis responsible for kosher supervision.”
The claims for the presence of a methamphetamine lab seem to be quietly disappearing and now no evidence or statements have appeared in the past few days that it ever even existed. And most of the initial headlines stating this no longer exist on the major news outlets.
Nevertheless, immigration services stated that they had warrants for 697 people who worked at the plant and continue to be actively pursuing the ones who have not yet been caught in the initial raid.
Meanwhile the town of Postville has been ripped apart by the sudden removal of so many of its residents. Consider that the arrests of more than 10% of the entire population have occurred in the past week. Nearly half of the 600 school children from the Postville community were absent the day after the raid. Some businesses are empty and the streets are nearly deserted. One has to wonder how the economic and social devastation that will follow in the coming months to this small American town, has really furthered the stated goal of ICE “dismantling vulnerabilities regarding the nation's border, economic, transportation, and infrastructure security.” Is this town really better off now? Is it safer and more economically viable now?
David Strudthoff, the Postville Community Schools superintendent stated that, "They don't go after employers. They don't put CEOs in jail.” He went on to say that the sudden incarceration of more than 10 percent of the town's population of 2,300 "is like a natural disaster -- only this one is manmade."
We were taught in school that the symbol of our country, the Statute of Liberty, was a reminder to the intent and formation of our country, to be a melting pot of immigrants seeking refuge in a country based on the ideal of liberty and freedom. Bring me your huddled masses searching for a better life. In many regards Postville, Iowa is the idyllic American town where long-bearded rabbis, Latin American immigrants, and German Lutherans had learned to live and work side by side.
Our immigration policies and enforcement are on a disturbing path to be sure. The intent seems to be more the creation of fear and distrust then the actual protection of US citizens. Will our kids someday see the miles of railcars packed with the human faces of men, women, and children, who entered this country without proper papers, peering out of the railcars as they are being shipped back to where they came from -- or worst somewhere else?