The top-ranking Catholic Church official in Iowa says Monday’s raid at the Postville meatpacking plant created a "state of terror" for the families involved and serves as a reminder of the need for "comprehensive" immigration reform.

Jerome Hanus, Archbishop of Dubuque, issued a statement (printed in full below), saying the immigration raid filled parents and children with fear as many are uncertain whether their loved ones who worked at the plant will be imprisoned or deported. Hanus said our nation’s political system has failed to address the demand for labor and a "long-term fix" on immigration, so that — in the opinion of Hanus — that the "weakest among us are bearing the brunt of the suffering."

Hanus acknowledged there is a "legitimate task" of screening out terrorists and dangerous criminals, but Hanus said it’s time to welcome "hard-working people from impoverished nations" to fill job openings.

A vigil will be held this evening at the Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Waterloo to pray for those involved in the raid.

Another group called Iowa Allies for Immigration Reform labels the raid a "violent response to a non-violent problem." Lynne Howard, a coordinator for Iowa Allies for Immigration Reform, says the workers who were detained are not being treated in a humane way. "The raid we see as just absolute overkill for one thing, the fact that they really kind of barnstorm in like these folks are criminals which by and large they are not," Howard says. "They’re just moms and dads from Guatemala…or wherever they’ve come from seeking better lives for their families."

About 300 workers were arrested on immigration and identity theft charges. Some are being held in county jails. Many were taken to the National Cattle Congress grounds in Waterloo to be processed. The federal government rented the Cattle Congress facilities earlier this month and blackened windows in some buildings, fueling speculation an immigration raid was forthcoming.

"What’s that all about? You know, what does that sound like? That’s just creepy, just things that seem really unAmerican, that seem on the down low," Howard says. "No one should be treated this way. These aren’t drug runners. They’re not terrorists." Howard calls the raid "political maneuvering" to show people the Bush Administration is doing something on illegal immigration.

Statement by Archbishop Jerome Hanus, Archbishop of Dubuque, IA. May 12, 2008:

"The actions taken by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Postville on May 12 highlight once again the need for comprehensive immigration reform. Families have been disrupted; parents and children are filled with fear. Many are uncertain whether their loved ones will be arrested, imprisoned indefinitely or deported.

This state of terror for families is evidence that our political system has not adequately addressed the demand for labor, the inadequacies of our present immigration policies and practices, and the broader economic challenges. Some of the weakest members among us are bearing the brunt of the suffering, while legislators and other leaders, as well as many of us in the general public, have failed to give this issue the priority that it deserves.

Leaders in the Roman Catholic community as well as many other religious  eaders have called for comprehensive immigration reform which strives:

  • to create legal avenues for workers and their families who wish to enter our country and work in a safe, legal, and orderly manner with their rights fully protected;
  • to develop border protection policies that are consistent with
    humanitarian values and with the need to treat all individuals with respect;
  • to allow authorities to carry out the critical task of identifying andthe legitimate task of implementing American immigration policy; preventing entry of terrorists and dangerous criminals, as well as pursuing
  • to reduce significantly waiting times for separated families to be reunited.

I urge all persons of good will to work at changing a system

  • that ignores the plight of individuals and families;
  • that resorts primarily on punitive measures rather than a long-term fixassist us in our labor needs as well as offer the richness of their faith and culture to our society; which would welcome hard-working people from impoverished nations to
  • that terrorizes families, separates parents and children, and places people in detention centers without good legal assistance and makes very difficult the possibility of communicating with their loved ones.

Our religious and social response is based on the Judeo-Christian scriptures which call believers to welcome the stranger among us, to treat the alien with respect and charity, and to provide pastoral and humanitarian assistance. While we do not condone illegal activity, we do give spiritual and moral support to suffering families.

All of us should urgently reiterate the call to our legislators to work for comprehensive reform.

I express my gratitude to all who are helping in these painful circumstances and assure our prayers and support to those who are suffering."