Today, CNN ran its first of two articles discussing immigration in “Middle America”. Today’s installment catches up with the town of Postville, Iowa, five months after what was the largest immigration raid in history.
It’s a town that’s been turned “topsy turvy,” Mayor Bob Penrod says, since hundreds of heavily armed federal immigration agents swooped in a few months ago and raided its main employer, Agriprocessors, the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant.
“It makes a person feel kind of angry,” Penrod says. “It’s been nothing but a freaky nightmare since May.”
Since the raid in Postville, large-scale ICE raids have become more frequent. In August more than 600 immigrants were arrested in Laurel, Mississippi and just last week more than 300 were arrested in Greenville, South Carolina.
In Postville, CNN visited St. Bridget’s Catholic Church:
…whose pastor, Father Lloyd Paul Ouderkirk, is both soft-spoken and outspoken. It is his church that became a refuge for the town’s immigrants the day of the raid and the weeks afterward.
“They had attacked this town with a military-style raid — brought in 900 immigration police to arrest 389 people. I mean, what is that other than a military raid on this town?” he says.
Ouderkirk scans his church now, the sun beaming through stained-glass windows. “Can you just imagine all these pews here full of people, sleeping 300-400 people a night?”
Many residents in Postville are still reeling from the affects of the raid. The town’s crime rate has gone up, local businesses are hurting and tensions are running high.
Residents feel like the town was “made an example of”. One resident, Brian Gravel, the principal of Postville High School noted that, “Picking on a town of 2,500 people in northeast Iowa is not my idea of a naturalization or immigration policy.” Postville, like so many other communities torn apart by ICE have become symbolic sacrifices, a way for the current administration to seem like it is “doing something” about immigration. But if Postville is any indication, the raids are acheiving little except the destruction of communities, families and businesses.