Recalling 2008 raid, immigrants call for reform

2013-05-10T19:15:00Z 2013-05-11T17:23:57Z Recalling 2008 raid, immigrants call for reformThe Associated Press The Associated Press
May 10, 2013 7:15 pm  • 

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) --- Recalling the devastating consequences suffered by workers and families affected by a 2008 immigration raid at a kosher slaughterhouse in Iowa, immigrants marked the five-year anniversary Friday by calling for reforms to prevent similar, wide-scale deportations in the future.

Workers and relatives impacted by the May 12, 2008 raid at the Agriprocessors plant in Postville joined with church leaders and advocates for a somber rally and prayer service in Cedar Rapids. They said they wanted to use the tragedy of the raid to push Congress to enact reform that would allow immigrants in the country illegally to stay to work and eventually seek citizenship.

Meeting outside the federal courthouse, organizers passed out 389 red roses to remember each of the workers arrested by federal agents who descended on the largest employer in Postville, a town of 2,200 in northeastern Iowa. Workers were arrested and bused to a makeshift courthouse set up at the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo. Many of them pleaded guilty to identity theft charges under immediately-reached plea agreements, served months in prison, and were deported.

In a matter of hours, Postville lost nearly one-fifth of its population and families were torn apart.

Fermin Loyes, 32, said he was arrested while working at the plant, then the nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse, and deported to his native country of Guatemala. He said he was forced to live apart from his wife and two young daughters, Merlin and Ilvana, now 10 and 6, for three years before he was able to return on a special visa. His daughters joined the march, waving American flags and signs calling for reform.

"It was very sad, very difficult. I don't want to remember that day," he said. "We want reform so that we can live here, so that we can have a nice life."

More than 250 people gathered outside the courthouse, a site they said was chosen because of federal officials' role in the raid and prosecutions. The building also houses an office of U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican, where the protesters delivered a letter asking him to support immigration reform. Grassley, a ranking member of the Senate judiciary committee, is playing a key role in the debate in Washington.

The group chanted for reform while walking a mile to a Catholic church for an interfaith prayer service, where Archbishop Jerome Hanus of Dubuque said the memories of Postville were still fresh.

"We wear like a shroud the shock, the fear, the shame, the crushing injustices of Postville," he said. "We stand as witnesses to a rush of events that shattered lives, crushed hopes and scattered families."

Hanus offered a prayer for "forgiveness and healing" for those affected, and for reconciliation with federal officials responsible for the raid. Representatives of U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Bruce Braley, both Democrats, read statements denouncing the raid and calling it a symbol of the nation's broken immigration system.

Samuel Lopez, 28, said he was lucky: he had a day off on the day of the raid and was spared. His daughter had been born two weeks earlier. But Lopez said his brother was arrested and deported to Guatemala. He recalled how his friends and family members were crying and scared because, "They thought the future was broken, and life wouldn't go on anymore."

"I want him to come back. He could have a better life here," Lopez said of his brother. "We want reform and we want it now. Things can't wait anymore."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(11) Comments

  1. panther13
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    panther13 - May 16, 2013 8:25 pm
    Joe do you advocate what went on in postville. Do you support a company that illegally imported cheap labor and exploited them: A company that is a prime example of the horrors of illegal immigration. I really feel for these people but had they been here legally they would of been able to take action against their employer for paying them less then legal wages among other labor law violations in addition to the sexual exploitation of female employees. I do not hate immigrants in fact my grandfather immigrated here in the 40's but there is a right way and wrong way of doing things. What we should be asking what drives illegal immigration and how do we fix it so people can pursue the american dream without putting themselves in a position to be trapped in exploitation such as postville.
  2. JD Kinnick
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    JD Kinnick - May 14, 2013 7:39 am
    Deport all illegal aliens. We have too many freeloaders of our own...foodstamps, section 8 housing, and the everpopular free obamaphone
  3. reojoe
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    reojoe - May 13, 2013 11:27 am
    Funny how the churches and religious organizations don't condemn them and call them "illegal," eh, folks?

    Your hatred is making Jesus so proud!
  4. vcusmano
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    vcusmano - May 13, 2013 2:10 am
    I, too, have no sympathy for illegals. they were treated a lot better than other countries would have treated them, having been illegal. most of them that come here and work, will have not worked enough to have paid into social security to retire sufficiently. who pays then? just tired of footing the bill for everyone that thinks the united states is a free ride. and really, really disgusted by Obama's amnesty plan.
  5. conservative_me2
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    conservative_me2 - May 11, 2013 12:09 pm
    Sorry to disagree, but you get free health services each time you go the emergency room. There are also millions of illegals that get their pay "under the table" where NO taxes are taken out and a majority of that money is sent back to their family in Mexico. Come in the proper way or stay home.
  6. victor672
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    victor672 - May 11, 2013 11:20 am
    Yes, Vanessa, my ancestors were white and came from Europe. They paid their own way on a ship, waited in a line to go through Customs and Immigration, filled out the paperwork, and then paid their own way to the Midwest. They didn't crawl, swim, hide, nor conceal themselves from the lawful authorities. Then they learned English and got jobs legally, paid taxes and bought homes. They never had a need to hide or run because they did things legally and openly. Most of you are Roman Catholic. Does your church teach you to break the country's laws and then lie about it? I hope not.
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    EZEVANSDALE - May 11, 2013 9:05 am
    Come here the legal way or go to Prison..... it's not that hard to understand. They stile identities and are criminals. Go back home and stop stealing American Jobs!!!
  8. nerdgirl
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    nerdgirl - May 11, 2013 8:20 am
    I too have no sympathy for those arrested. We have a process that allows entry to this country to be done legally. If you choose not to follow that process, you suffer the consequences.
  9. victor672
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    victor672 - May 10, 2013 6:42 pm
    I hope that the ICE photographers were there to document the brazen undocumented.
  10. VanessaCM
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    VanessaCM - May 10, 2013 6:03 pm
    You should probably learn to speak your own language before you start criticizing immigrants. Learn to use apostrophes correctly. Sheesh. Now, as for immigrants, this is a country of immigrants, I am sure your own ancestors didn't start here, especially if you are white. We immigrants leave our heart and soul working for this country, and we get absolutely nothing for free. We do pay into the social security, Medicaid and Medicare system, as taxes are taken from our paychecks, but we will never see any of those benefits because we are ineligible for them as immigrants, you should check up on laws and on reality. We are subsidizing the system, though, because we pay into the system but don't get anything out. Thank you to all our allies who were out there supporting us today, and who are working alongside to win immigration reform this year! :)
  11. azne69
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    azne69 - May 10, 2013 3:31 pm
    I have no sympathy for illegal's, come here legally or go back home! Quit your whining you get enough free stuff.
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