A minister from Postville says the May 12th immigration raid at the Agriproccessors plant set the community back by 15 years. Reverend Steve Brackett, of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, says the early workers at the meat processing plant were young immigrants who often got into trouble.
Brackett says it took the residents of Postville some time to get used to the influx of immigrants, and once they did, things changed and the town flourished. Brackett says over time immigrant families came to Postville to settle permanently. He says since the raid happened during the first shift, it primarily impacted the immigrant families.
Brackett says those families are now out of the plant as they await legal proceedings or deportation. Brackett says they’re now in many ways “back to square one” as the plant has brought in a workforce of single men who don’t intend to settle in the community.
“Crimes is on the rise again,” Brackett says, “we’ve had several bar fights that have occurred since the new workers have been brought in, we’ve had at least one drug arrest, and I’m sure if we checked police reports, we’d find there’s quite a bit more that’s gone on.”
Brackett says the arrest of the immigrants leaves holes in several areas of the community. He says they’re losing some families that have been in the community for 10 to 14 years and they’re losing half of their elementary students. Brackett says Latino students in the community had typically quit school after 8th grade and go to work, but they was starting to change as they had three Latino students graduate from high school this year.
He says students who had hoped to go on to college but that does not look possible now. Brackett compares the impact of the raid where 389 people were arrested, to the flood situation in eastern Iowa. “This is a town of less than 2,500 people, and we are dealing with a disaster and dealing with similar situations to, for example what the city of Cedar Rapids has had to deal with following the flooding,” Brackett says, “now obviously their situation is affecting many, many more people, but the way in which we’ve had to respond is similar to what a city the size of Cedar Rapids has had to do.”
Brackett says the government aid isn’t flowing into Postville like it is for flood damaged cities. Brackett says the other effect of the raid is that the churches have had to pick up the pieces left over after the raid. “And we’ve received no state or federal funding to assist us in supporting family members who are waiting for loved ones to be released from prison, or for those who are themselves have been released from prison with G-P-S tracking bracelets awaiting court dates.”
Bracket says his church’s food pantry used to serve 30 to 35 people, and now they’re serving some 250. Brackett made his comments on a conference call with religious and labor leaders who are calling for changes in U.S. immigration and labor policy.