Saturday, October 18, 2008

A call to support returning workers in Postville, Iowa

La solidaridad es la ternura de los pueblos.Solidarity is the ternderness of the people.

– Gioconda Belli


Please extend your generosity and the big heart of solidarity by making a donation to support Returning Workers in Postville. (See below for ways to send in your contribution.*)


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Dear Friends:

As you may have already heard or read in today’s Des Moines Register, a number of people arrested in the raid in May are being returned to the community with a temporary work permit so that they can cooperate with labor violation investigations.  You can read some details at [inserted below this letter]:

We have been overwhelmed by trying to find housing for those who have already been released (18 people) and are now in desperate need of help in housing the additional 13 who are expected to come mid to late next week. In order to be released, they have to have a place to go. This means that we need people who are willing to house them. These are hard-working, decent people, whose only crime has been to try to provide for their families.

Additionally, as these and other needs arise, the local response being coordinated through St. Bridget's continues to be in desperate need of donations, and these folks being released will also have clothing needs (as again, they are being released with nothing but the clothes on their back).


Thank you.



David Vásquez, Campus Pastor

Office for College Ministries

Luther College

700 College Drive

Decorah, IA 52101


Off: 563-387-1040

Fax: 563-387-2153



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Make your check out to St. Bridget’s Ministry, write in the memo “Postville Relief Fund” and mail to:


St. Bridget's Hispanic Ministry

ATTN:  Postville Relief Fund

P.O Box 369

Postville, IA 52162


You can also go online to donate at:


When the web page opens up, on the right hand bottom, click:

1-Select :Specific Disaster,

2-Then Designate a specific disaster: Postville Disaster



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DesMoines Register


October 17, 2008

Illegal workers brought back to Postville


Eighteen illegal immigrants arrested during a meatpacking plant raid in Postville have returned to town and might receive work permits for as long as federal prosecutors need them, a U.S. immigration spokesman said Thursday.

But the workers still face deportation, and were shipped to town fresh out of prison with few belongings and scant job opportunities, said a local church pastor who cared for the workers.

The immigrants were tagged as witnesses this week in the case against two human resources managers at Agriprocessors Inc., a kosher meat plant that employed hundreds of illegal immigrants and was the site of one of the largest raids in U.S. history in May. All of the witnesses have completed five-month prison sentences at the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami, said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Tim Counts.

Less than a week after they completed their prison terms, federal agents obtained warrants to hold the immigrants as material witnesses in their case. A federal judge, however, ordered that the workers be released with supervision.

Court papers identify 16 workers as witnesses in the case against Laura Althouse, the plant's payroll supervisor, and two in the case of Karina Freund, a Spanish translator who helped process work papers. The release orders - written in English and Spanish - require the workers to wear GPS ankle-monitoring bracelets and stay within an area determined by a probation officer.

The Rev. Paul Ouderkirk, the pastor at St. Bridget's Catholic Church in Postville, said the witnesses were brought back to Postville Sunday with next to nothing.

One man had a check for $21 in prison wages, he said. Three others were sharing one toothbrush. Ouderkirk said the men did not yet have work permits, and would likely have to stay with relatives in town.

"We fed the ones who came here today, because they were hungry as all get-out," Ouderkirk said Thursday, adding that "the only jobs around here would be the occasional farm work or going back to the plant."

Ouderkirk and other religious leaders have complained in the past that federal agents in the raid's wake relied too heavily on local churches to shelter and feed the immigrant workers.

Althouse and Freund were charged with federal and state crimes in September, four months after federal agents raided Agriprocessors and detained 389 illegal immigrant workers. The raid sparked allegations that plant managers had violated labor laws and mistreated some workers.

Bob Teig, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said his office planned to call another 13 immigrants as witnesses.

Those immigrants have just finished federal prison sentences in Tallahassee and Miami.

The immigrants identified as witnesses still will be deported as part of their criminal plea deals, Counts said. A work authorization "is temporary by nature, and does not change the fact that they have a deportation order," Counts said.

ICE agents, he said, have asked U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to fast-track the immigrants' applications for work permits so they can find a job.

The plea deal for most of the immigrants arrested in May requires them to cooperate with the government's ongoing investigation of Agriprocessors. Immigrants who receive temporary work permits have to find jobs on their own, Teig said.

"The work authorization would allow them to work for as long as they are here," Teig said. "Since they are material witnesses in these cases, it would last at least as long as the process takes."

Althouse, of Postville, was charged with aiding and abetting document fraud, aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy to harbor undocumented aliens. Freund, of Fayette, faces one count of aiding and abetting the harboring of undocumented aliens.

Representatives for the women have said they still work at Agriprocessors.

Althouse, if convicted, faces between two and 22 years in prison, a $750,000 fine, a $300 court surcharge and supervised release of up to seven years. Freund would face a maximum five-year sentence, a $250,000 fine, a $100 surcharge and three years of supervised release.

Althouse, Freund and three plant managers also are charged with 9,311 child labor violations filed by the Iowa attorney general's office.

Agriprocessors officials facing state misdemeanor charges are company owner Abraham Aaron Rubashkin; his son, longtime company leader Sholom Rubashkin; human resources manager Elizabeth Billmeyer; and Althouse and Freund.

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