The Common Good

Churches a Haven after Immigration Raids

There was a raid at a meat-packing plant in Postville, Iowa, yesterday, in which about 300 people were detained. Please keep them in your prayers. The Des Moines Register ran a moving article about the role of a local church in helping the community deal with this crisis:

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant scattered the Hispanics of Postville. About 400 found their way to St. Bridget's Catholic Church, waiting for information. Some filled out G-28 forms that allow a lawyer to represent their detained children or minors in their care.

A woman who would identify herself only as Judy said she and her husband work at Agriprocessors. The last time she saw him was before his shift Monday, about 5:30 a.m.

"No, I don't know where he is," she said in Spanish.

Judy said she and her husband came from Mexico illegally. Like many others at St. Bridget's, they regard the church as a haven from law enforcement.

Asked whether the church would indeed be a safe place, Sister Mary McCauley of St. Bridget's said, "That is our belief and hope."

...

Standing outside the Agriprocessors plant, Adolfo Calderon said he tried to put himself in the shoes of someone here illegally.

He has friends who work at the plant, he said, most of whom are in America legally, but he feared for the families who might be separated.

"They shouldn't do this," Calderon said. "I understand it's a legal (issue) and they're trying to do their job, but what happens to these poor families?"

Adolfo Calderon, 15, said his father manages apartments in the town. With the raid, those apartments could be cleared out and his father could be put out of business.

Hidie Roach, a teller at Citizens State Bank in Postville, said the raid gives the town a bad name.

The town needs the packing plant, Roach said. "I think a lot of people will leave."

At St. Bridget's on Monday night, Real, the lay pastor, fielded calls, answered questions and handed out pamphlets advising immigrants of their rights while trying to keep about 400 people clothed, sheltered and fed.

His wife, holding the phone to her ear, said a caller was offering food. Did they need it?

Real, without looking up from his desk, answered quickly.

"Say yes."

Sojourners and Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform is working with religious leaders in the state to release statements denouncing these tactics.

UPDATE: Bishop Gregory V. Palmer of the Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church has released a statement in support of the workers and their families. You can download the full statement as a PDF or listen to an audio verion. Here's an excerpt:

We are called to stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers whose lives were disrupted today at the Agriprocessors, Inc. plant and who are facing unknown challenges and likely separation from their families, friends, and loved ones. As Iowa United Methodists we want to stand in partnership and community with the workers in Postville who are experiencing hardships of unknown proportion. It is our belief that we are all deeply connected to one another through Christ without regard to one's nationality or legal status. I believe today's raids create fear and chaos that is detrimental and harmful to communities here in Iowa and around this nation. We cannot allow the pattern of history to repeat itself where the newest migrants to our nation become criminalized and become the target of our animosity, fear, racism, and anger.

Patty Kupfer is the Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform campaign coordinator at Sojourners.

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