When the Postville, Iowa meatpacking plant, AgriProcessors, was raided last Spring by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), the effects were devastating to the small town community. Like many small towns across America’s heartland, Postville had struggled for years to maintain a viable economy, as well as with the increasing cultural differences within their community as hundreds of Latinos moved in to fill hard labor jobs at the plant.
With hundreds of Postville’s community members rounded up and either detained or deported, Postville’s future looks bleak. The people left behind must contend with empty apartments, restaurants, and stores, and the reality that their little town was dependant on immigrants.
A recent article in the Kansas City Star claims other towns are afraid the same thing will happen to them. Reporter Scott Canon writes about the precarious position Midwestern towns are finding themselves;
The change has been dramatic for towns like Postville and Milan, and for Sedalia, Marshall and St. Joseph in Missouri and Dodge City, Garden City, Liberal and Ulysses in Kansas. They’ve seen large immigrant populations alter their social fabric even as the labor has kept the meat industry running and local economies vibrant.
Meantime, anxiety lingers about whether another small town will be transformed by a large-scale immigration raid.
They have a right to be scared. The federal government seems to utterly disregard the direct and indirect impacts of immigration raids. But why should the people at ICE care?After all , these are people who have probably never lived in a small-town, or done a day of hard labor in their lives. Whichever side of the immigration debate you fall on, you can’t deny that government paper-pushers in Washington shouldn’t be ripping up small-town communities. What is even worse is they are doing it at the behest of anti-immigrant groups that are based in, you guessed it, Washington D.C.
Canon aptly describes in his article the work at a plant in Milan, Missouri;
It takes a lot of sturdy, even desperate, people to turn 10,000 hogs a day into mountains of pork chops and tenderloins. At its best, the work is grueling. Even in a modern processing plant like the Farmland Foods Inc. facility here, workers must persevere through robotically repetitive tasks with impossibly sharp knives or bear heavy lifting that could buckle a linebacker.
Maybe the next time Washington decides to put a community and its members’ futures in danger, they should first spend a day working at the plant. I’m guessing they wouldn’t have the energy to get out of bed, much less destroy a town.
*Image gratefully borrowed from Todd Baker << technowannabe’s photostream