Nigel Duara and William Petroski, Des Moines Register, May 12, 2008
Four Homeland Security buses with U.S. Immigration and Customs tags on them have entered the Agriprocessors Inc. complex.
The buses, along with a trail of SUVs and vans with Minnesota license plates, arrived at about 11:45 a.m. Federal agents descended upon this northeast Iowa community at about 10 a.m. today to conduct an immigration raid at the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant. The ICE agents entered the Postville plant to execute a criminal search warrant for evidence relating to aggravated identity theft, fraudulent use of Social Security numbers and other crimes, said Tim Counts, a Midwest ICE spokesman. Agents are also executing a civil search warrant for people illegally in the United States, he said.
Immigration officials told aides to U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley that they expect 600 to 700 arrests. About 1,000 to 1,050 people work at the plant, according to Iowa Workforce Development.
[Chuck Larson, a truck driver for Agriprocessing] said the agents told workers to stay in place then separated them by asking those with identification to stand to the right and those with other papers, to stand to the left.
When asked who was separated, Larson said those standing in the group with other papers were all Hispanic.
Earlier this morning, a helicopter hovered over the scene, and a number of agents formed a perimeter around the Agriprocessors facility. Vehicles from ICE and at least eight cars and vans from the Iowa State Patrol were at the plant. There were also reports of two moving vans at the scene, along with an ambulance and two black Chevrolet Suburbans.
Counts declined to confirm where people who are arrested will be detained. Federal officials have leased the National Cattle Congress fairgrounds in Waterloo, but they declined to explain last week whether the property was being prepared for use as a detention center.
Counts said that each person being arrested would be questioned by ICE and by Public Health Service medical professionals to determine if they have humanitarian issues, including child care giver or medical issues.
“Those interviews will aid ICE in determining whether people will be detained or conditionally released on humanitarian grounds, pending their immigration court appearance,” Counts said.
The Agriprocessors plant, known as the nation’s largest kosher slaughterhouse, is northeast Iowa’s largest employer.