In May, hundreds of people returned to tiny Postville, Iowa, to mark the first anniversary of the largest immigration raid in U.S. history, when 900 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers led a military-style raid on a meat-packing plant and arrested 389 people. Since then, 1,200 people have left Postville—about half the town’s population. The raid has come to symbolize the shameful criminalizing tactics of the Bush administration’s immigration policy.
The day began with a prayer vigil and tolling bells from Postville’s Catholic, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches. “We must work so that there would no longer be any immigration raids,” said Catholic Archbishop Jerome Hanus during the service, “no more immigration raids to traumatize a people, to separate families, to destroy businesses, to shatter towns, and to scar hearts forever.” All the speakers, including some arrestees forced to wear GPS ankle devices, called for comprehensive immigration reform.
The Obama administration issued guidelines in early May directing ICE to target employers, not workers. In 2008, only 2.5 percent of worksite arrests were employers. The Supreme Court ruled recently that federal identity-theft charges can’t be applied to most undocumented workers using false social security numbers to obtain work. —Joey Ager