POSTVILLE, Iowa — Sister Mary McCauley recalls hearing rumblings in the days leading up to what was then the biggest immigration raid in U.S. history.
She received two calls from contacts in Des Moines, one of whom was a newspaper reporter, asking the same question.
“His conversation started this way: Have you heard the rumor?” said McCauley, the former pastoral administrator of the Trinity Cluster. “When two conversations started with the same question, I started to believe the rumor.”
Soon after, helicopters were spotted in the skies over Postville. The day was May 12, 2008.
“The people in Postville knew about it because the helicopters, the sirens, the presence of (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents, the presence of buses with blackened windows,” McCauley said.
Saturday, May 12, will mark 10 years since federal agents swarmed Agriprocessors Inc., a kosher slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant. More than 300 immigrant workers were arrested on charges of identity theft, document and other offenses.
Many of the workers served short prison terms and were deported. The plants owners evaded conviction on charges of harboring illegal immigrants and violating child labor laws, though Chief Executive Officer Sholom Rubashkin eventually was convicted on bank fraud charges.
On Friday, May 11, events will be held in Postville marking the 10 years since the event that ravaged the small community and its large Hispanic population. An interfaith prayer service will begin at 10 a.m. and an 11:30 a.m. rally is set for Meyer Park, which is near the site of the raid.
“I still hold those terrifying, heart-rending images in my heart and in my mind, my memory of what happened on that day and the days the followed,” McCauley said.
She recalled opening St. Bridget Church in Postville to scared family members of the Agriprocessors workers. Many stayed for an entire week, afraid to return to their homes.
By Ben Jacobson for TELEGRAPH HERALD
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