Magazine article The Christian Century

Revelations in Iowa

Magazine article The Christian Century

Revelations in Iowa

Article excerpt

August 26, 2008

For the past several months the debate over U.S. immigration policy has centered on the tiny town of Postville, Iowa. In May, government officials descended on the town and arrested almost 400 immigrants who worked at a kosher meat processing plant. Close to 300 of the workers, most of whom are from Guatemala, were convicted of fraud. Also arrested were two employees of the company, Agriprocessors, who were charged with harboring illegal immigrants.

The raid was an apocalyptic event for Postville. The plant had been the economic backbone of the town of 2,300. After the raid, about half the town's workforce was unemployed. Hundreds of families lost their primary source of income. Many of them turned to St. Bridget's Catholic Church for food and for legal, moral and spiritual support.

The raid was apocalyptic not only for the town and its residents but for the rest of us, in the deepest meaning of apocalyptic: it offered a revelation, an unveiling, of the immigration crisis.

It revealed, first of all, how deeply undocumented immigrants are woven into American life, even in places like northeast Iowa. Many of these immigrants had lived in Postville for a decade. Their work bolstered the local economy. Their children attended local schools. Many of them were married at St. Bridget's and had their children baptized there, and they assisted at worship and sang in the choir. The Postville raid vividly demonstrated the human cost of arresting and deporting illegal workers. …

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