It was the biggest workplace immigration raid the US had seen to date.
On May 12, 2008, 389 workers, almost all of them Hispanic, were detained at a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. They were taken to a cattle show ground in nearby Waterloo and tried in groups as large as 10 at a time. Most were imprisoned and then deported.
The workers were traumatized. So were their family members.
“I just remember sinking into my desk and just crying,” Pedro Lopez Vega says, thinking back to the day he found out his mother had been detained. He was a teenager, in middle school.
But the raid also had effects that rippled outward. Postville’s economy suffered, and one study suggests Latinos across the state of Iowa — both immigrants and US citizens — were affected by the raid.
In this episode of Weeds in the Wild, we explore the effects raids can have and take a look at the history of our immigration policies to understand why we have raids in the first place.
Many thanks to Luis Argueta, who has made a three-part documentary about immigration, for putting us in touch with Pedro Lopez Vega and Joel Rucal.