Midwest Activists Show Solidarity for Immigrant Families

By Terry Keleher Jul 30, 2008

Over the weekend, some 1200 activists from around the Midwest traveled to Postville, Iowa to stand up for the rights of immigrant families and workers. Like the town of Jena, Louisiana, which became a flashpoint in the debate over continuing racial discrimination of African Americans, Pottsville, Iowa, a small town of 2,200 people, finds itself at ground zero in the debate over immigrant rights. The town was the site of the largest enforcement raid in U.S. history at a single site by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when officials, in May, raided the Agriprocessors, Inc. meat packing plant and arrested 389 men, women and children, mostly Guatamalan and Mexican nationals living in and around Postville. Nearly 300 of the workers have been tried and convicted and now await deportation. Protesters came by the busload from Chicago, the Twin Cities and around the region for a solidarity march, interfaith service and family unity gathering on Sunday. These events were preceded by a Congressional fact finding trip on Saturday, initiated by the Hispanic Congressional Caucus. “As the Bush Administration and ICE crack down on, criminalize and imprison workers, nearly 400 families in Postville have been left with the impossible daily struggle to feed their children. Meanwhile, their employers—accused of wage and hour violations, child labor and physical and sexual abuse—face no charges,” stated a media advisory from Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Chicago), who led the congressional fact finding delegation. The protesters called for congressional legislation to give legal status to undocumented immigrants, end the raids, keep families together, and ensure human rights and fair working conditions. Participants in the protests spanned ages, races, ethnicities, religions and geographic areas, including Latino immigrants, Catholic clergy members, rabbis and social justice activists. Unlike the protests in Jena, the Associated Press reported that local residents’ reaction to the protest “appeared largely supportive,” despite a small anti-immigrant counter-demonstration organized by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).