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A Tale of Two Towns and Two Immigration Raids

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A Decade After Largest-Ever Immigration Raid Devastated Postville, IA, Morristown, TN is Reeling From Another Raid, Destruction of Families
A recording of the call is available here

Ahead of the 10-year anniversary of the mass workplace raid on Agriprocessors in Postville, IA, another immigration raid was conducted, this time at a meat processing plant outside of Morristown, TN where almost 100 workers were arrested. Both incidents caused devastating, rippling effects throughout their communities. 

Today, state and local leaders and affected family members gathered on a press call to discuss the long- and short-term impacts that immigration raids can have on communities and families. A recording of the call can be found here. 

Sister Mary McCauley, Pastoral Administrator, St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in Postville, IA in 2008 (retired), said:

I often describe May 12, 2008 as the most challenging, frightening, exhausting and transformative day of my life. It was on this day that a small child approached me and asked, ‘Can our friends come too?’ My response was, ‘Tell anyone who is afraid or alone to come to St. Bridget’s.’ By the evening we had over 400 people within our Church and hall. Frightened children were searching for parents. Arrested mothers with GPS devices on their ankles were searching for their children. Others were sitting alone, filled with fear, disappointment and anger. All were in a state of shock.

It was on this day and for the days to follow that I saw how unjust and outdated laws can devastate a community and a people. I saw firsthand how treating people harshly and without dignity can break a person and disrupt a family.

As we anticipate the Tenth Anniversary of this devastating and infamous raid, we are summoning our country to justice. The SUMMONS of 2008 ended in 389 arrests, numerous imprisonments and mass deportation. The SUMMONS of 2018 must end in a change of heart, a change in our immigration laws.

Stephanie Teatro, Co-Executive Director, Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition (TIRRC), said:

The kind of large-scale worksite immigration raid we just experienced in Tennessee is incredibly disruptive to local communities, leaving children stranded without their parents, terrifying entire communities, and devastating local economies. We know from Postville that the effects are going to be felt for years to come. As we fight for justice for the 97 families in Tennessee, we stand with communities in Iowa and across the country to demand an end to workplace raids and mass deportations.

Esperanza, a Morristown, TN resident whose husband was arrested during the raid, said:

The raid that happened in our town has devastated 97 families and our whole community. My family and the others affected by the raid have been organizing to stop the deportation of our loved ones and to call for an end to massive raids like this one, so that no other community has to experience what we did in Morristown and Postville.

Rev. Dr. David Vásquez-Levy, President, Pacific School of Religion (CA), formerly with Luther College in Decorah, IA, said:

To our elected officials we say, we can do better. As a small community, where a large raid was conducted, Postville can serve as a microcosm of how misguided fear-driven enforcement can be. The ripple effects were felt not only by the immigrant community, but by our entire town. Within six months, the city went into bankruptcy – including factories, businesses, and area farmers. The economic impact was in the millions. This blind enforcement does not reflect our deepest held values or our interests. But, Postville is also a microcosm of what is possible. Our community, our congregations – across religious traditions – banded together to support our immigrant community. We can do better, and we must do better.

Lynn Tramonte, Deportation Defense Coordinator for America’s Voice, said:

The government is employing SWAT-team style tactics to raid plants and factories and arrest ordinary workers.  These are good people who just want to do their jobs and take care of their families.  Americans benefit from the difficult work they do, yet we allow our government to run roughshod over whole families and communities.  We really must listen to the Postville and Bean Station raids’ first responders, and understand that immigration raids are a fundamentally flawed tactic that only add to the imbalance of power in the workplace and treat immigrants as dispensable ‘pairs of hands’ instead of full human beings.