On May 12 at 10:00 a.m., church bells in our community will ring to commemorate the anniversary of the May 12, 2008 immigration raid in Postville, Iowa, and to remind us all of how broken our immigration enforcement system is.
Many of the employees of the raided plant were undocumented workers, who were exploited, underpaid and in some cases abused. When the plant could not replace all the detained workers, it shut down, harming even law-abiding workers by leaving them unemployed. A third of the Postville community fled overnight, leaving 50 empty desks at the local school, and vacating houses and businesses. For a week following the raid, traumatized families slept in St. Bridget’s Church, afraid to return to their homes, and people there still live in fear. Several workers still await trial, costing the town of Postville nearly $80,000 a month to support them. The destruction of the community was funded by our federal government, but there is no federal funding to aid in the humanitarian response.
We cannot continue tearing families and towns apart and leaving them to fend for themselves amid the mess created by our broken immigration system. Comprehensive immigration reform would have kept families and the Postville community together by making it possible for workers to remain employed (and thus to keep paying taxes) and by giving them protection to report labor abuses. Comprehensive immigration reform is needed to bring workers out of the shadows, to eliminate the fear and destruction caused by these raids and, most importantly, to keep families together.