January 28, 2009


Iowa: What Happens When a Town Implodes (Betsy Rubiner, Jan. 28, 2009, TIME)

During a bitter cold January week, penniless women and children stream into a Catholic church in the northeast Iowa town of Postville that has served as their refuge since May 12, when 389 workers were arrested during an immigration raid at the Agriprocessors Inc. meatpacking plant. The women are among 26 former Agriprocessors workers, most from Guatemala and Mexico, charged with immigration violations and fighting deportation. Released on humanitarian grounds but required to wear electronic ankle bracelets, the women, as well as about 59 children, now depend on the community, especially St. Bridget's church, which operates a Hispanic ministry from a worn brick house.

One woman needs medical care for her anxious 12-year-old son, who has started wetting his bed. Another needs legal help for her husband, arrested during a return visit to Agriprocessors by immigration agents last fall. "I am very sad and worried," says Irma Lopez, 28, a former Agriprocessors worker who remains in limbo with her young daughter while her husband is back in Guatemala, one of many arrested workers deported in October after serving five months in prison. "I worked since I was eight years old and now I feel worthless. I can work but I'm not allowed to."

Eight months after the Agriprocessors raid, Postville is still grappling with what its leaders call "a humanitarian and economic disaster," compounded by the recession and a harsh winter. Life isn't much easier for "legal" workers. [...]

Help has come primarily from community groups and churches, with donations from near and far. The local food pantry is now open Sundays, as well as Wednesdays, serving about 150 people. But some leaders say the help is not enough and worry about shortages and increasing hardships, especially evictions. In December, a citizen's group faxed a letter to state and federal leaders that said: "Postville is a community in turmoil, a broken, hurting place... If Postville was reeling after the raid, recent events have brought the town to its knees. What happens when a place implodes?"

It's easier to see on the small scale what nativist hysteria has done on the large, and quite intentionally. The GOP will recover when it starts acting like the Church and not the State.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at January 28, 2009 9:08 AM
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