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Up to 700 Arrests Estimated in Postville ICE Raid

Nigel Duara and William Petroski – Des Moines Register

Buses with blackened windows were brought into the National Cattle Congress grounds in Waterloo on Monday after immigration officials raided the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in Postville.

POSTVILLE, IA — Four Homeland Security buses with U.S. Immigration and Customs tags on them have entered the Agriprocessors Inc. complex.

The buses, along with a trail of SUVs and vans with Minnesota license plates, arrived at about 11:45am

Federal agents descended upon this northeast Iowa community at about 10 a.m. today to conduct an immigration raid at the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant.

The ICE agents entered the Postville plant to execute a criminal search warrant for evidence relating to aggravated identity theft, fraudulent use of Social Security numbers and other crimes, said Tim Counts, a Midwest ICE spokesman.

Agents are also executing a civil search warrant for people illegally in the United States, he said.

Immigration officials told aides to U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley that they expect 600 to 700 arrests. About 1,000 to 1,050 people work at the plant, according to Iowa Workforce Development.

Chuck Larson, a truck driver for Agriprocessing, was in the plant when the agents arrived. “There has to be 100 of them,” he said of the agents.

Larson said the agents told workers to stay in place then separated them by asking those with identification to stand to the right and those with other papers, to stand to the left.

“There was plenty of hollering,” Larson said. “You couldn’t go anywhere.”
When asked who was separated, Larson said those standing in the group with other papers were all Hispanic.

ICE spokesman Harold Ort in Postville did not confirm or deny that anyone had been detained, but went on to say that the children of those detained would be cared for and that “their caregiver situation will be addressed.”

“They were asked multiple times if they have any sole-caregiver issues or any childcare issues,” Ort said.

He said the two helicopters circling the complex were there to provide EMT support and to watch out for the agents on the ground.

Jeff Schnerbach, a sub-contractor electrician with Viking Electric, said he was on break at 10 a.m. when “200 agents” stringed into the complex.

“They took our statements, asked us where we were from, asked for an ID and let us go,” Schnerbach.

Early scene in Postville

Earlier this morning, a helicopter hovered over the scene, and a number of agents formed a perimeter around the Agriprocessors facility. Vehicles from ICE and at least eight cars and vans from the Iowa State Patrol were at the plant. There were also reports of two moving vans at the scene, along with an ambulance and two black Chevrolet Suburbans.

Counts declined to confirm where people who are arrested will be detained. Federal officials have leased the National Cattle Congress fairgrounds in Waterloo, but they declined to explain last week whether the property was being prepared for use as a detention center.

Aides to Braley, a Waterloo Democrat, said they have been told that “hundreds” of arrests are expected because the action is more of an “investigation” than an immigration raid, and specific individuals are being targeted for arrest as part of the investigation.

Jeff Giertz, a spokesman for Braley, said immigration officials left the impression that the Cattle Congress site will be used mainly for processing of suspects rather than any long-term detention.

Counts said that each person being arrested would be questioned by ICE and by Public Health Service medical professionals to determine if they have humanitarian issues, including child care giver or medical issues.

“Those interviews will aid ICE in determining whether people will be detained or conditionally released on humanitarian grounds, pending their immigration court appearance,” Counts said.

Counts described the events in Postville as a “single site operation.” He said he was not aware of any other immigration raids being conducted elsewhere today.

Postville Police Chief Michael Halse said he did not know anything about the raid until 10 a.m. today.

Iowa Department of Public Safety officials referred all questions to federal authorities. A news conference is scheduled at 2 p.m. today at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cedar Rapids.

Postville, on the border of Allamakee and Clayton counties, is a community of more than 2,500 people that includes natives of German and Norwegian heritage and newcomers who include Hasidic Jews from New York, plus immigrants from Mexico, Russian, Ukraine and many other countries.

The Agriprocessors plant, known as the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse, is northeast Iowa’s largest employer.

About 200 Hasidic Jews arrived in Postville in 1987, when butcher Aaron Rubashkin of Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood reopened a defunct meat-packing plant with his two sons, Sholom and Heshy, just outside the city limits. Business boomed at the plant, reviving the depressed economy while pitting the newcomers against the predominately Lutheran community.

A University of Iowa professor, Stephen Bloom, wrote a book, “Postville: A Clash of Cultures in Heartland America,” detailing what happened.

Workers and immigration advocates in Iowa began girding for an immigration raid last week after learning that federal authorities had leased Waterloo’s Cattle Congress fairgrounds. Federal officials declined to explain their plans last week, but advocates worried the fairgrounds would be used as a detention center. That’s what happened in December 2006, when federal agents took people apprehended in a raid at the Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in Marshalltown to the Camp Dodge military base in Johnston.

The scene in Waterloo

In Waterloo, a helicopter cruised over the Cattle Congress fairgrounds about 12:45 p.m. as a group of about five reporters watched from a parking lot across the street from the main gate.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials in black uniforms were posted at the gate and referred all reporter questions to Tim Counts, the spokesman.

A few touring coach buses were parked inside the gates, along with several ICE vehicles.

Retired University of Northern Iowa professor Rosa Maria de Finlay approached the gate to offer her interpretation services, but she, too, was turned away by an agent.
De Finlay said she has stopped by Cattle Congress repeatedly today, checking the grounds for signs that people were being detained there. She said she saw no buses enter.

“I think the money we’re spending on all this is incredible. You and I will never know how much it costs. That money could be used for something else other than this crap, this nonsense,” she said.

41 Comments

  • 1. interesting wrote:

    Chances they were “tipped off” by some self-hating Jewish PETA wackos?

  • 2. nrd324 wrote:

    Our strong government is launching a raid on Afghanistan Oh…. that not Afghanistan or Iraq this is POSTVILLE IOWA .

    Our military is so strong wow

  • 3. About time! wrote:

    I don’t care if the price of meat soars by 10%, businesses should hire legally only. In the end we save on not having to p;ay these illegals education, medicare etc. and if they can’t find jobs, the illegals will go back to their homeland where they belong.

  • 4. elliyahu wrote:

    Well, ok, if this is part of Bush’s plan on scaring off the Mexican and Hispanic illegal immigrants, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. Almost every business in the USA – mostly Brooklyn and surrounding boroughs have some form of under the table minimum cash wages in place with these cheap workers.
    But like the lady said: “it’s all a waste of taxpayer’s gelt”. Keep the economy moving, no matter what.

  • 5. Nechama Verter wrote:

    Hm but at the same time, who wants to work for the meat industry? Fact is illegals do a lot of the work in this country that no one else wants to do- like Agriculture and Meat.

    Does this really mean that Meat prices will be going up?

  • 7. Yes it is me! wrote:

    to ABOUT TIME:
    Do you or your friends wanto do the jobs that these guys are doing? do you want to mow lawns? stock tomatoes in the groceries? chances are not! shipping all illegals out will not do you any good. Think of something alittle smarter

  • 8. Joseph Eisenstein wrote:

    Im glad to see the Department of Homeland Security is rescuing us from the evil terrorists.
    Sheesh. Lets deport all these fathers from their families to protect American interests, like cheaper products made in America. Hey why dont we send all the hispanic and asian immigrants back to their homelands, and then we can outsource our products there!!! What a great way to get America out our economic slump!
    The government should spend our money in better ways. ..

  • 11. Mordie wrote:

    So much for George Bush’s alleged great relations with Chabad.

    Don’t be surprised if Rubashkin clears out 770 by hiring all the bochurim to replace the undocumented workers.

  • 12. 777 wrote:

    To Nechama:

    You may have no interest in working in a slaughterhouse, but don’t assume that many Americans would not work there for a few extra dollars an hour.

    The fact is that illegals drive down wages to the point that Americans cannot sustain themselves on these measly salaries.

  • 14. annoyed wrote:

    frankly i am DISGUSTED! I am so tired of lubavitchers in general priding themselves on “oh i only eat rubashkin or shor habor” when this is the kind of business you run??! hitting people with a meat hook. paying them $5 an hour?? all documented. i am NO liberal but I tell you i would rather eat Hebrew National if I knew they ran there business like a mentch. this is treif meat. if you cant rust them to be honest in who they hire and how they treat their workder you REALLY think you can trust them how they shecht their meat? Wake up Lubavitchers!!!!

  • 15. Annoyed with annoyed wrote:

    To annoyed.

    Just how close minded can you be?
    Do you believe everything you read in the biased, left wing, anti semitic press?
    Have you ever been to postville or even spoken to some one who has?
    There is no “hitting with meat hooks” or $5 hr wages in fact many of the illegal aliens made more then “legal” citizens that went through school!

    “All Documented” please provide ONE source that is reliable.

    Do you know the rubashkins from postville or do you perhaps just have a gruge on the one from NY and carry the hate over to anyone with the same name?

    Over all I think it is sad (and in you words “un mentchlich”) that a person can spew such hate and negativity with out know any of the real facts (not just what you read in the press) or having met the people involved.

    Just for the record had you actually read the entire articel carfully you would have noticed that the charges most were arrested for was idenity thef.
    witch means that they presented their employers with seemingly VALID proof of being legal so you how are you accusing them of being dishonest?

  • 16. anonymous wrote:

    To annoyed. Nobody asked you to eat it I think you should see a doctor to get that nonsense out of you.

  • 17. Suzy Q wrote:

    It doesn’t matter if the raid is ridiculous. That they are rounding up people who are working (not running around in gangs and living by committing crimes). Mr. Rubashkin knew he had illegal immigrants working for him. He’s always known. He also knows the law and thinks he is above it. If he thinks he is above laws set out by our government, does that also mean he feels he might be above halacha???

  • 18. Elchonon wrote:

    You guys are a missing a few watts in your bulb.. yes americans are fat and lazy parasites living on welfare.. if only the government yanked the welfare rug, they’d get to work.

    Your all very narrow minded, while I am willing to support shochtim from eretz yisrael.. not ileagals from mexico.. let em get in the legal way.

  • 19. Bordlonger wrote:

    I am torn. I am all for deportation of illegals. (And if Americans wont do the job we can hire Mexicans only after documenting them, backchecking them and requiring they pay some taxes etc.)
    But is seems like this was politically motivated.
    Either way a few months ago a meat plant was raided similar to this – so truth is they should have seen it coming.

  • 20. Misc wrote:

    That article was really scary. We all know so many stories of human rights being violated. I think we should all say some Tehillim for everyone involved.

  • 21. Nechama Verter wrote:

    Oh, and to Joseph Eisenstein— how would outsourcing more items help our economy? Part of the reason our economy is having such problems is because we’re importing a lot more then we export. Plus, by getting rid of those industries we’d also be loosing jobs for legal Americans who DO work there.

  • 22. disgusted wrote:

    I think you should all get your facts straight before you all go bashing a company and refering to their meat as not kosher! you should be ashamed of yourself! Now we definitely see how the media can record a story and get everyone to beleive them, getting people to go against their own brothers.
    You know, I think you should start eating hebrew national, with a mouth like that!
    And by the way, the government wants us to stop only buying things made in china..How about building our economy and not trying to bust the businesses that are bringing business to America!

  • 23. me wrote:

    I know first hand getting hit with a meat hook never happened so stop believing everything you read from these people! second, it was NOT PETA who tipped them off, it was …. a yid!
    Although these people knew to come into this country you need papers and maybe you need to wait a few extra months to get them so you can make a good life and living for your family, they decided to skip that and take a chance…and now with that chance comes the fact that those that are illegal who will be imprisoned or sent back have american kids! their kids were born here in USA!!! whose gonna foster them?

  • 24. koolchossid wrote:

    There mre may Jews that they start In America with not papers, and BH, with the Shuchim’s help,get a Green Card after many years
    Do u think that it is aveira to help these Jews, giving them the opportunity to work during the hard times before they get the green card?
    Maybe there r some Jews in Potsville

  • 25. Nechama Verter wrote:

    To 777:
    If you’re going to get technical about the problem of illegal immigration, mine is not the only comment to be criticized. You can get into statistics and opinions on illegal immigration… But that’s what they are, statistics and opinions. In certain areas I agree it’s unfair that our jobs are being taken. But when it comes to agricultural and meat processing industries— if we wanted such a job we would most likely not be living in the tri-state area etc. Also, they aren’t always working for a few extra dollars an hour. Many work for minimum wage or less.

    I didn’t mean to start a whole discussion on the pro’s and con’s of illegal immigration. The point is, this article states that more then half of the workers are illegal and being shipped off. Who will replace them? I won’t. Will you? They may have to higher wages in order to find replacement workers. If you pay some people more, how will the other workers feel. That will cause employee discontent and the argument can go on and on.

    To Elliyahu:
    Without meaning to offend, I do want to point out that not all illegal immigrants are Hispanic. They come from other countries as well. With this being pointed out, not all Hispanics are illegal, and not all Hispanics are Mexican either.

  • 26. to 777 wrote:

    If you ever learned History it was the people of the union that demanded higher wages caused the economies to fauleter. As unions demanded higher wages imports started to grow, thus making less demanded, economies of the countries that exported began to surge (such as China today). I think that Rubashkin should move south of the border and and with NAFTA in place they should be able to bring in the meat quite cheap. BTW I know you are going to ask what are americans going to do. That is why I believe companies should be allowed to bring in guest employees as long as they are monitored by some mean.

  • 27. To annoyed wrote:

    I am not sure why you are annoyed. I dont know where you get your info but most businesses in the US today hire illegal workers (and that is the idea behind hiring guest workers, so that we can keep an eye on them). These workers are sending their five dollars back to Mexico and supporting many families with that money. Would you rather the company goes south of the border and americans wont have any jons out of the company?

  • 30. make it clear wrote:

    Mordie wrote:
    So much for George Bush’s alleged great relations with Chabad.

    ICE is not George Bush. Agriprocessors is not Chabad.

    Both are affiliated with the respective counterpart.

  • 31. boruch ben Tzvi(A H)haKohaine hoffinger wrote:

    B“H
    Mr./Mrs. ‘Annoyed’ All documented? Where?
    Send me the details. If you have no proof your Email is a ‘pashkvil,’ something the Rebbe, MH”M hated. You’re defaming Jews without proof?
    Perhaps the paperwork of these illegals was forged and realistic?

  • 32. Surprised wrote:

    I don’t think you doing any good to the Rubashkin family by posting this event.

  • 33. EZ TARGET wrote:

    LETS PICK ON THE EZ TARGET. JEWS.

    DID’T RUBASHKIN TELL ALL THE WORKERS TO APPLY FOR SITEZENSHIP WHICH CAUSED A LARGE STRIKE A YEAR AGO? THIS IS GOING TO HURT ALL OF US.

  • 34. Jewish Princess wrote:

    Jews are supposed to be humane. What’s the point of exploiting goyim just to make extra bucks? Capitalism is OK, but how much profit is fair… It ends up becoming a chillul Hashem.

  • 35. Yoeli wrote:

    Unfortanly this is why Mosiach is not here. Ur comments show the true u(not all of u) u can not fargin another jew making money. U should just give as much tzedakah as he and his children give.

  • 36. To annoyed, wrote:

    To annoyed, Do you have a cleaning lady? ask her for her papers, if she has none, then fire her. Almost everyone here in Ch and BP or flatbush hires illegal cleaning ladies. I hope thats the worst thing we do.

  • 37. chaya_123 wrote:

    This country is burdened with illegals – social systems,crime, schools…All we are is a dumping ground for the corrupt countries south of the border. We allow them to continue their practices of classism and human rights violations by letting these companies exploit these workers.
    It upsets me that the ‘immigrants’ think they have a right to be here. As far as I know people in Mexico are not being murdered because of their religion or ethnic origin. Those are the people we should be worried about!

    Companies that hire illegals are socially irresponsible and should pay restitution!

  • 38. CHT wrote:

    What a hypocrites this PETA spies are. They have mercy for animals and no mercy for human beings. All they are interested – doing malshinus for money.

  • 39. Mario L wrote:

    It is sad to see all these comedy of error. The government’s refusal to take the bull by the horns in the case of emigrants. It is to hot a subject for anyone to take it up seriously.
    The other comedic question, how many people are packing their bags right now to move to Postville and grab one of the nearly 400 jobs available? If any, most likely, they are Hispanics.
    Who is going to put up with the treatment like the one received by a fellow Guatemalan who lost his hand to a machine at this plant and now has to leave the country minus a hand and with little or no compensation. Yes, a true case told to me by another Guatemalan who tiered of the awful conditions left the plant despite his need for work.
    Were is all the money withheld for taxes from all this people? The goverment, the plant owners? For sure, the people that paid those taxes are never going to see one cent of benefits.

    And finally, we need those people, employee. Not only in Postville but in many other cities and communities in this country. Why can we admit that? Why can we provide a process for them to work here legally?

    Guatemalan brothers, I feel for you all. I know the conditions in Guatemala are, at times, hopeless but we have to start using our heads. How much do you have to invest to come hear and be mistreated? How long does it take to pay for the way up here? What happens to your wife and your children when you are no longer there for them? How much more do they receive now that you are not with them? Who loves them and protects them? Is your family honoring your wife and your children?

    I have to ask all these questions because I hear all the problems and the questions from those left behind.

    I love my Guatemala and I would like nothing more than to make it better for us all. For our children and grand children.

    In God’s hands and love. Yours always.
    M

  • 40. ME wrote:

    IT WAS NOT PETA…THE TIP OFF CAME FROM A YID, AND I KNOW THAT FOR A FACT!!! ITS A YID WHO HAS MADE TROUBLE FROM DAY ONE! I HOPE HE GETS WHAT HE DESERVES….

  • 41. Debbie wrote:

    Really incredible. A Jewish website, read by people who went through the holocaust or are children of those people. This website reporting that people have been rounded up, rousted at gunpoint from hiding places, separated from their children, mothers from husbands and offspring, men from wives, placed in internment camps, “processed,” loaded into buses, ejected across borders. Loose talk about the cruelty of kosher slaughter (similar arguments made in Poland in the 1930s about kosher meat industry). As though anything about the Rubashkins’ treatment of animals OR workers has anything to do with “Homeland Security.” All this — and the only thing readers feel appropriate to comment on is whether they should eat one brand of meat or another, or whether we “need” immigrants at one wage or another.
    It all makes me ashamed to be a Jew.

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