Terror in the Heartland: Postville, Iowa
By Paul Street at May 16, 2008
Below I am pasting in a message I just got from a Google group called "Iowa Peace List." As far as I can tell, it is a communique from somebody in the Catholic Church in Iowa. It is about the recent proto-fascistic Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) assault on Latino (predominantly Guatemalan and Mexican-American) workers in a kosher meatpacking plant in the eastern Iowa town of Postville. The plant is owned by a company called Agriprocessors.
It is the biggest workplace raid in U.S. history, according to some accounts. For much of this week, the jackbooted high-tech thugs of the INS have been jailing hundreds of Latina/o workers in razor-wired cattle pens while hundreds of local Latina/o residents seek shelter in Postville's St. Bridget's Church.
The local corporate media has been giving the standard Orwellian "coverage," deleting (a) the savage global-capitalist inequality and oppression that compels millions of Central American workers and peasants to serve as super-exploited/stateless labor in the corporate U.S. agro-industrial complex; (b) the functional utility of stateless/rightless/un-person labor for U.S. capital; (c) the miserable workplace conditions people are forced to endure in the factories and fields of the modern agro-industrial "Jungle" (the title of Upton Sinclair's once famous 1906 novel about life and death in U.S. meatpacking industry); (d) the widespread racism experienced by immigrant workers of color; (e) the role of the U.S. employer class in creating and profiting from it all.
The "illegal" workers have been penned up like animals, tried and detained often without adequate legal representation and are now being scattered across federal (in Cedar Rapids) and county jails in eastern Iowa. Hundreds of spouses and children have no idea where their loved ones are being kept and when or where they'll see them again. Meanwhile there is zero discussion of sanctions or penalties on the noble capitalist operators of Agriprocessors.
But then it's always been that way with fascism: the jackboots of the state fall on weak minorities and workers, seen an enemies of the virtuous Nation, and the corporate elite's prerogatives and profits are untouched and often enough enhanced. According to local reports, Agriprocessors is now hiring. Am I supposed to now migrate a couple hours north and claim a job for the white American race on the imperial homeland's cattle-killing floors?
Here (below) is the document - a living primary source for those who care to research their country's ever-deepening descent into authoritarian madness. Please note there are action steps to help the Postville Raid victims.....
This is a slightly edited version sent to our community and associates
from our Director of Communications. I thought you would appreciate
Sr Carolyn Farrell BVM
Some of you may not be aware of what has happened in Northeast Iowa
this week: On Monday morning, the U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) federal agents raided Agriprocessors in Postville,
Iowa, and arrested 390 persons, taking them to a detention center set
up in Waterloo at the Cattle Congress Fairgrounds. This is the largest
single workplace raid in the history of the U.S. Agriproccessors is
the largest meat processing plant for kosher meats in the country.
Terrified, distraught family members, plus workers at the plant on
shifts not affected by the raid, fled to St. Bridget's Catholic
Church. In the center of this vortex of human disaster is Mary
McCauley, pastoral administrator at St. Bridget's and two other
parishes in the area.
Since Monday, the church and parish center have become a refugee
center, with between 150-300 persons, both adults and children,
staying there, some around the clock, afraid to leave, with no
knowledge of what is happening to their family members, or what their
own future holds. Many are afraid to send their children back to
Many of those detained have been denied legal representation, and in
some instances the government has added criminal charges of identity
theft to the immigration violation charges. The situation continues
to change rapidly.
Mary is coordinating all the on-the-ground efforts in this enormously
complex situation, with assistance from many sources. BVMs Judy
Callahan, Eileen McGovern and Paulette Skiba have helped with Spanish
interpretation, and Mary Martens and I went up yesterday to assist
with preparations for a news conference. Other BVMs will continue to
provide assistance as needed.
Our prayers are with Mary and all the persons who are traumatized by
this human-made disaster. In addition to prayer, we are recommending
The raid and its aftermath have been covered extensively by regional
media, and to some extent nationally. Regional coverage online is at
the following websites; many also have video clips; Mary McCauley is
prominent in some. At the end of most of these media pieces one can
make comments. Unfortunately, many are filled with hate and strongly
supportive of the government's action.
Our voices, articulating our values and perspectives, are sorely
needed. If at all possible, please add your own comments on these
websites. This feedback is closely monitored by the newspaper or TV
station, and then makes its way back to the next day's
Here are sites to go to:
Dubuque Telegraph Herald: http://www.thonline.com
Des Moines Register: http://www.desmoinesregister.com
Waterloo Courier: http://waterloocourier.com
Cedar Rapids Gazette: http://www.gazetteonline.com
Of course there are other media actions, such as listening to radio
talk shows that may be addressing this topic and phoning in with your
comments; writing letters to the editor, etc.
Our intercongregational communications group, Sisters United News
(SUN), is working on an intercongregational newspaper ad and radio
spot that will address this issue.
Please contact your representatives and senators urging that adequate
legal counsel be provided for each detainee. Immigration lawyers have
been denied access to the detainees.
In Iowa, contact:
Representative Bruce Braley http://braley.house.gov/Contact/
Washington: 202-225-2911 Dubuque: 563-557-7789 Waterloo:
Senator Tom Harkin http://harkin.senate.gov/
Washington: 202-224-3254 Dubuque: 563-582-2130
Senator Charles Grassley http://grassley.senate.gov/public/
Washington: 202-224-3744 Waterloo: 319-232-6657
Since all of this is handled federally, the legislative networks in
other states can also be activated.
Or, funds can be sent directly to:
St. Bridget Hispanic Ministry Fund
c/o Sr. Mary McCauley, BVM
P.O. Box 369
Postville, IA 52162
Money is needed for both short and long-term needs of all affected.
4. Personal Support
Archbishop Jerome Hanus of the Dubuque Archdiocese will celebrate a
4:30 p.m. bilingual liturgy at St. Bridget Church in Postville on
Saturday, May 17. Mary invites BVMs and Associates in the Dubuque
area to join the Postville faith community in a sign of support for
all our sisters and brothers who are grieving and terrified.
In the midst of long hours and urgent needs, Mary continues to find
strength and courage to accompany this community through this crisis.
She is appreciative of all our prayers and support.