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May 14, 2008

Postville ICE Raid Round-Up

390 people were detained in Monday's raid, making it the largest single-site raid to date. That's more than a third of plant workers. Most will be removed for entry without inspection or using false identification. Others face criminal charges for aggravated identity theft or illegal reentry. Agriprocessors managers and owners are being investigated for labor law violations.

As I wrote Monday, locals were tipped to the raid when ICE rented a nearby fairgrounds. According to one detained worker, her supervisor told her three weeks ago to find "more realistic" identification papers. A loudspeaker announcement warned plant workers that ICE was in the building. Some tried to hide; some tried to run.

Workers who were released for humanitarian reasons--mostly medical or child-care issues--are being monitored and will be required to appear at their hearings. About 40 were released "with supervision":

ICE's warrant says that Agriprocessors has been a known problem for over two years, during which time DHS noted over 700 immigration or criminal violations. Complaints have included claims that employees were operating a meth lab and that supervisors were physically abusing illegal workers.

Another plant worker told federal officials that undocumented workers were paid $5 an hour for their first few months before receiving a pay increase to $6 per hour. The minimum wage in Iowa is $7.25 an hour.

Postville, a town of only 2,300, was mostly empty yesterday. The mayor thinks that people are still hiding from ICE or have fled. He worries that if Agriprocessors closes, Postville will become a ghost town.

Finally, criminal proceedings have begun against the workers using the fairgrounds' ballroom as a makeshift courtroom. Preliminary hearings are being conducted in groups of about 10. Those not charged with crimes still face removal.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 12:05 PM

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