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Postville Aftermath: Braley Continues Questioning, Latham Remains Quiet
Much has been written, both before and after the May 12 immigration raids in Postville, on the diversity of the community. One unique and divisive aspect of Postville that has largely escaped most members of the media, however, is the fact that the community is split between Allamakee and Clayton counties. This also means that the community is divided between Iowa’s 1st and 4th Congressional Districts. The Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant resides in Allamakee County and Iowa’s 4th District.
While it goes without saying that residents of both districts have felt and will continue to feel an impact of the nation’s largest immigration raids that netted 389 people, most of them from either Guatemala or Mexico, only Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat representing the 1st District, has voiced questions and concerns about the activities on that day and the subsequent aftermath. Congressman Tom Latham, a Republican representing the 4th District, has yet to make a formal statement regarding the raids, their aftermath or the ongoing criminal proceedings.
To date, 85 individuals have been sentenced in federal court. Many have spent several days in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents at a makeshift holding facility on the fairgrounds of the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo or in local jail facilities. Countless other undocumented workers have taken refuge in area churches or fled the area following the raids. Businesses have closed. Apartments have been abandoned. Agriprocessors has begun hiring new workers to fill the large gap left when 40 percent of its workforce was detained by the government.
Today, Braley is asking ICE to calculate the cost to taxpayers of both the Postville and 2006 Marshalltown immigration raids. In a letter to ICE Assistant Secretary Julie Myers, he wrote:
“It is important that my constituents in Iowa and all U.S. taxpayers know how their tax dollars are being spent. What was the budget … including the planning, execution, processing, detention, and deportation costs? … What were the budgets of the other cooperating agencies that assisted with the … enforcement action?”
In the wake of the Postville raid, Braley has called for an investigation into whether Agriprocessors violated workplace safety, child labor and immigration laws, citing various media accounts and a federal affidavit that points to possible violations. Members of his staff personally toured the temporary detention facilities at the National Cattle Congress to see firsthand if those accused were being treated in a humane manner.
In contrast, Latham, who received $2,000 in campaign contributions from Agriprocessors official Sholom Rubashkin in 2004, has refused formal comment and has not made public any requests he’s made of government agencies involved in the Postville raid. The Rubashkin family, which owns the company, also gave nearly $6,000 to the Republican Party of Iowa from 2002 to 2004, and has given roughly $65,000 to other Republican candidates, current elected officials and Republican Party committees since 2000.
The Rubashkin family also gave a $3,000 campaign contribution to Gov. Chet Culver during his gubernatorial bid and $5,000 to Lt. Gov. Patty Judge’s gubernatorial bid before she merged her campaign with Culver’s. Judge, who has been named by Culver to lead a task force in relation to Postville in the raid aftermath, also received $5,000 from the Rubashkin family in 2005 when she served as secretary of agriculture.
Latham, who has served the 4th District since 1995, wrote a guest editorial on the blog RedState last November in which he stated that has has “long been a supporter of legal immigration” and that he has “been and will always remain opposed to illegal immigration.”
“From its founding, America has consistently applied equal protection under the law to citizens and legal visitors,” Latham wrote. “The very act of entering the country illegally shows disrespect for this important principle and I believe that it should not be rewarded in any way.”
Latham, who has been previously described as moderate on immigration issues, appears to be moving toward a more strict stance on the issue. He voted in 2006 to approve the construction of a fence along the United States-Mexico border. He supported an amendment that same year that would prevent the U.S. government from telling the Mexican government about the whereabouts of the Minutemen Project volunteers. Five years earlier, however, he voted yes on a motion to suspend the rules and pass a bill that would extend by four months a law allowing some immigrants to remain in the country while pursuing legal residency, and two years before that he voted to pass a bill to increase the number of temporary visas granted to skilled workers. Earlier this year, while hosting discussions on Iowa’s nursing crisis, Latham said that immigrant workers could help the state fill the gaps.
Latham’s lack of response to the Postville raid drew the direct ire of the Iowa Democratic Party on Monday.
“Leadership has always been a challenge for Tom Latham, but failing to comment on the Postville immigration raid is a new low point,” said Brooke Borkenhagen, IDP press secretary, in a prepared statement. “With the largest immigration raid in United States history happening in their backyard, the people of Iowa’s 4th Congressional District deserve to hear from their congressman. Iowans in the 4th District deserve real leadership.”
On Monday, Latham issued a press release regarding the inclusion of language in proposed legislation that might result in the creation of a veteran’s health care clinic in Decorah.