Left Behind in Postville

Let's hear it for those who stepped up to help the women and children left behind in Postville, Iowa after a raid resulted in the arrests of about 400 undocumented workers, many of whom were imprisoned after cursory proceedings.

The raid left 43 women, wives of the men who were taken away, and their 150 children without status or a means of support. The women cannot leave the town, and to make sure they do not they have been outfitted with leg monitoring bracelets.

Postville has turned into an open air prison for the women and children who, for "humanitarian" reasons, haven't been detained behind bars. The women have been left to fend for themselves, but are prohibited from working to earn money. [more ...]

"The women are effectively prisoners," said Father Paul Ouderkirk at St. Bridget's Roman Catholic Church. "The difference between them and anybody who is in jail is that in jail the government pays for them, but if they're on the streets we pay for them. What kind of a government makes prisoners of 43 mothers who all have children and then says, ‘You can't work, you can't leave and can't stay?' That boggles the imagination."

A local church and concerned supporters are supplying the women and children with the means for survival.

Since the raid, St. Bridget's, with a staff of four, has raised $500,000 to pay for rent, clothing, food and other necessities of life. Donations have come from other faith groups and individuals who have read about the raid.

Agriprocessors, the company that employed the arrested workers, has been accused of egregious violations of safety violations, including prohibitions against employment of child labor. In that light, there's no reason to believe that Agriprocessors acted as a responsible corporate citizen when it "said it was waiving rent for women living in company-owned apartments and making regular food contributions." After exploiting entire families, Agriprocessors doesn't need the bad publicity of mass evictions ... at least not now, with the media watching. Besides, Agriprocessors might view the left-behinds as potential additions to its labor force.

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    Thanks for posting about this (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by esmense on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:08:36 PM EST
    A list of ways to contribute can be found here:

    Sorry, that didn't work (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by esmense on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:09:04 PM EST
    Correcting your link (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by JavaCityPal on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:27:49 PM EST

    in case your comment gets deleted.



    How did you do that? (none / 0) (#17)
    by hairspray on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 08:06:29 PM EST
    I fear we will see (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by samtaylor2 on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:13:45 PM EST
    as the fear of "minority majority" gets closer

    I donated to that Catholic church (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by nulee on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:20:01 PM EST
    that is helping.  The whole thing is really awful.  I was glad that rabbi wrote an op-ed (maybe last week?) in the NYT about how a business capable of such cruelty is not "kosher".

    So hypocritical that we are happy to benefit from this labor but then bust these workers in the most vicious way.

    Found a fund (none / 0) (#15)
    by Molly Pitcher on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 05:47:06 PM EST
    You can google St. Bridget's Hispanic Ministry Fund, Postville.

    The kids are not responsible parties.  The gov. did that in SC also not so long ago.  I have to agree with the priest that the 'open-air prison' concept is inhumane; at least here they scooped up entire families (I think!)


    What's at issue here isn't immigration policy (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by esmense on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 04:43:55 PM EST
    It is trying, on a person to person basis, to mitigate hardships being felt by a group of specific fellow human beings, most especially totally innocent children, because of insane circumstances created by our lack of an intelligent and consistent immigration policy.

    I'm trying to find the difference (none / 0) (#5)
    by JavaCityPal on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 02:24:37 PM EST
    between the government agency going after Agriprocessors, and the agency itself. Is Iowa treating the women and children with less neglect and abuse??

    Seems to me that, while assisting the women and children is an absolute necessity, realizing there is a serious flaw in the system, and getting it fixed, carries just as high of a priority.

    Thanks for this post and the post on Katrina (none / 0) (#7)
    by cawaltz on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 03:15:41 PM EST
    It's sad that our government is basically turning a blind eye but its bittersweet because the fact that average citizens have stepped up to the plate to fill in the gap is incredibly encouraging and a reminder of the good average Americans can do when they see this kind of stuff.

    Absolutely (none / 0) (#10)
    by tek on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 03:51:17 PM EST
    right.  I am white and it makes my blood boil to see Hispanic leaders demanding the same civil rights for people who entered this country illegally and voluntarily placed themselves in near slave conditions.  They know perfectly well what they're getting into and come willingly.  No one kidnapped them, they pay "coyotes" thousands of dollars to come in and they know they are taking jobs from legal Americans for less pay.  Organizations like La Raza just thought they could borrow civil rights tactics and sneak their people in here and then get them amnesty if they claimed to be persecuted and discriminated against.  Their government and the coyotes tell them that Americans are lazy and won't work.  I read one illegal Mexican woman's comment that "we come here and do the work for Americans and they should let us stay."  What these people skip over is that they come here and put Americans out of work.

    No decent person likes to see any human being treated inhumanely, but if people are determined to disrespect the law there are consequences.  If our society starts promoting the idea of breaking whatever laws we find inconvenient, we will be living in a lawless society.  In fact, we're very nearly there.

    Well..that's to the point (none / 0) (#12)
    by MichaelGale on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 04:02:26 PM EST
    I need to say this.  The government is dictating these scenarios Of lower wages, undocumented workers and corporate profits. I don't know how to fix it but punishing people they allowed to work for them and then when an election rolls around...get rid of them is using and abusing people.

    That said, I don't know how I feel about any of this; reparations or immigration. The topics pop up at elections then go away again. We need some courageous soul in government to put it out there.

    In addition, I'm talking to you and don't assume that I am one of what you described as"you people" please.

    The measure of a society (none / 0) (#13)
    by Redshoes on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 04:23:03 PM EST
    is how it treats the most vulnerable members among it's citizens, visitors (documented or not)and prisoners.  

    The issue of immigration and workers' rights are far more complex and intractable and do not lend themselves to simple solutions (e.g., mass deportation, a bigger fence....)

    Unless you're willing to clean up after yourself, pick your own produce, watch your own children, etc., and demand that the government hold employers accountable, it's just loud angry noise.

    As to those who have been harmed themselves, two wrongs have never made a right -- compassion and understanding begets more for everyone -- in a nation as great as ours we have the power to create a better more just society.  

    You have some very good points. (none / 0) (#18)
    by hairspray on Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 08:19:39 PM EST
    We see sucessful African Americans all over the place (here in California) and fail to see that covert racism and system wide abuse still takes its toll on poor poeple all over the country. I read a story of a chicken processing plant that had both AAs and Hispanics working there.  The AA people had fought for improved working conditions for years, but when the illegals came in the company began bullying them and when the Hispanics failed to fight because they were frightened the company began these illegal practices.  The AA people were fired if they fought back.  And you are right.  These conditions happen because the companies can get away with it.  And exploited minorities have no recourse and abet the practise.