Five years ago, a small eastern Iowa town was in shock, following what was then the biggest immigration raid in U.S. history.
On May 12, 2008, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement swarmed the Agriprocessors kosher meat-packing plant in Postville.
“I was in, I think it was, reading class, and I saw the helicopters pass by, and they told us that immigration was here,” says Alejandro Nunez.
Nunez’s mother was arrested in the raid, but ICE agents let her stay in Postville to care for her three boys. Like others in her situation, the federal government banned her from working and kept her in an ankle bracelet monitor for more than a year.
Many businesses closed down and homes went into foreclosure following the raid.
But things are starting to look up for the community. Postville students who were brought unlawfully into the country as children now hold hopes of attending college.
Last June, President Obama introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals initiative.
Postville’s interim superintendent of schools says the initiative kept some students in school who might have otherwise dropped out.
A lot of our students prior to that, you know, once they reached 16, it’s one of the struggles we had was they’re no longer required to be in school, so there wasn’t a reason to be here if there wasn’t a future beyond high school,” says John Rothlisberger.
Some people in the community worry that another situation like the 2008 raid could happen again.
However, under the Obama Administration, ICE has implemented a new worksite enforcement strategy that focuses on employers who knowingly hiring illegal workers.
The strategy reduces the need for large-scale immigration enforcement actions.