The word is starting to spread that what happened last month in Postville, Iowa, was much more than a mere immigration raid. A line was crossed by the federal government, and the citizens who saw it firsthand have decided to stand up.
And this time, it appears that Congress is paying attention too.
Over a thousand people jammed the streets of Postville on Sunday to demand an end to raids like the one that tore through their little town. Many of them were there to call on a delegation of visiting congressmen to take that message back to the Beltway:
Postville Mayor Robert Penrod told the congressmen to take the message back to Washington that immigration raids do not work.
"This raid did nothing for this community," he said. "It downgraded us substantially. It caused people to suffer, and it caused our reputation to suffer clear across the country."
The congressmen — Reps. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., Albio Sires, D-N.J., and Joe Baca, D-Calif. – were all members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and were clearly sympathetic.
In the meantime, the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law held a hearing on the Postville raids last week. I’ll be discussing that in more detail soon, but suffice to say that the Kafkaesque travesty of justice that the raids produced – not to mention the raid’s potential interference with an investigation into labor improprieties by the meatpacker who employed these Latinos – may yet get the full airing they deserve.
Meanwhile, I was particularly taken by this story about a couple from Wisconsin who felt compelled to come to Iowa to take part:
“I believe it is a moral imperative for us to be here,” John said. “I think our government is standing opposite communities and business with their current stance on immigration. It use to be that this nation was a melting pot — that everyone came together and gave up their cultural identities. Many are no longer willing to completely do that and both sides must adapt. Business knows this. I mean, look at product instruction sheets printed in so many different languages. Communities understand this. Look at how our communities have come to embrace and celebrate the differences between cultures. Our government does not understand this.”