A new film brings out the poignant human stories behind the headlines about the May 12, 2008 immigration raid on the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. Please watch this trailer:
Filmmaker Luis Argueta will speak at a Chicago screening of “abUSed: The Postville Raid,” joined by local immigration rights activists who traveled to Postville to support victims of the raid and by Rev. Steve Brackett of the St. Paul Lutheran Church of Postville.
The screening takes place Wednesday, July 20, at 5 p.m. at the National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th Street.
The largest workplace raid in U.S. history was intended as a “pilot” to be replicated across the country, according to the film, but instead it generated widespread criticism.
The film addresses the humanitarian crisis created by the raid as well as the constitutional and human rights issues raised by assembly-line prosecutions and deportations that resulted.
One thing that comes across clearly is the terror experienced by parents and children concerned about their family members. One local church volunteer sums it up: “Devastation and fear.”
Agriprocessors owner Sholom Rubashkin was convicted of fraud in June 2010 and sentenced to 27 years in prison. No charges were filed concerning widespread wage, health and safety, and child labor violations.
Members of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs  were among those who responded to the raid at the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant, helping to organize a massive protest  and returning regularly with resources for food, shelter, and legal assistance.
The raid “cast a spotlight on how broken our immigration system is,” and “seeing the devastation to the families and the impact on the whole town’s economy” spurred JCUA to make immigration reform a priority, said Jane Ramsey, executive director of the group.
In 2009, JCUA helped launch a national Jewish Campaign for Immigration Reform .
“We are quite unhappy with the escalation of deportations” under the Obama administration, Ramsey said. “It’s only exacerbating the problem.”
Brackett is a leader of the Postville Community Benefits Alliance, which has sought unsuccessfully to open a dialogue with the plant’s new owners. Ramsey said Brackett has told her many of the old problems at the plant are returning, including wage and safety issues.