Iowa: protests meet ICE arrest of 390
Waterloo Courier/Matthew Putney
May 12 protest at National Cattle Congress grounds in Waterloo, Iowa, where workers are being held in barns after raid at meatpacking plant by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
BY FRANK FORRESTAL
WATERLOO, Iowa, May 13A hundred angry protesters waving American and Mexican flags demonstrated in support today for 390 workers arrested in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raid of Agriprocessors Inc. in the town of Postville in northeast Iowa. The youthful and raucous crowd yelled ICE go home, Were not criminals, We will not surrender, and Sí se puede (Yes we can) outside the entrance of Cattle Congress fairgrounds in Waterloo.
Double that number demonstrated here yesterday as the Homeland Security buses full of prisoners arrived.
In the largest immigration raid in U.S. history, as many as 500 cops from local, state, and federal agencies descended on the plant May 12. The agents had a criminal search warrant targeting workers for allegedly using false Social Security numbers and civil search warrants for workers ICE says are in the country illegally. A government affidavit says approximately 76 percent of the 968 employees of Agriprocessors were using false or fraudulent social security numbers in connection with their employment.
The federal government leased the fairground for several weeks in preparation for the raid. The male workers are being held in cattle barns there, and the women have been taken to local jails, according to a local TV station.
Among the demonstrators were high school and junior high students; workers from the nearby Tyson meat-packing plant; and Black, white, and Latino workers and youth.
The protestors cheered every time passing cars honked in support. Matt Stewart, a worker at Domino Pizza, parked his car after seeing the action and joined in. What ICE is doing is obscene, Stewart said. They dont even give these workers a process to become legal.
Agriprocessors Postville plant, the largest kosher slaughterhouse in the United States, processes both beef and poultry. It is owned, according to Forward, a Jewish daily, by the Rubashkins, a family based in Brooklyn, New York.
In a series of articles over the past few years, Forward has reported on the working conditions, injuries, and low wages, as well as job actions, including a walkout of several hundred workers in 2007. The New York paper has also reported on the attempts by the United Food and Commercial Workers union to organize the plant and Agriprocessors antiunion efforts to squash it.
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