Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.
Postville tense after evictions, another raid and Agri’s bankruptcy
“I have no clue where to start.”
That was the phrase uttered time and time again as residents in and around Postville were asked to describe what’s happened this week in their community.
Just this week:
- Postville landlords have begun to evict those who are former workers at the Agriprocessors plant. The Palauans are seeking ways to to travel to Des Moines or back to their home country. Some in the community have stepped up to help, but there are simply not enough resources to help all who are in need.
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents came into Postville again on Tuesday and arrested one man at the Agriprocessors plant. The move rippled quickly through the community and many once again sought refuge in St. Bridget’s Church. Those who have now left the church are still nervous and many are hiding.
- Agriprocessors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Tuesday, a day before a scheduled court hearing on an alleged $35 million defaulted loan. The company hopes to reorganize, and court documents indicate the the Rubashkin family, the Jewish family that founded the company, hopes to continue to control despite seeking assistance from investors and other outside parties. The company is citing the May 12 immigration raid as a primary reason for a lack of liquid assets.
- Agriprocessors has shut down a slaughtering facility in Gordon, Neb. The facility which was opened in an area considred to be economically depressed, received tax incentives for each person employed from the region. It also opened with the help of Community Development Block Grants. It is unknown if Agriprocessors will be liable for return of part or all of those funds now that the plant has closed.
- An Agriprocessors distribution facility in Florida appeared to be continuing operations this week. Sources reported seeing vehicles on site and workers going about their tasks.
The mood in Postville is primarily a somber one — although the Jewish community held a thanksgiving farbrengen to celebrate the quick release of former Agriprocessors executive Sholom Rubashkin on bail. There is also a distinct underlying current of tension. Rumors circulate hourly on the immediate status of the plant, for instance whether or not Alliant Energy has disrupted power to the facility for a past due bill in excess of $100,000.
Prior to the May 12 raid, the community had roughly 2,400 residents. While no one has an exact count, it’s estimated that the town has been reduced to 1,500 or less.
Likewise, prior to the raid Agriprocessors — by far the largest employer in the region — was the nation’s largest producer of kosher meat and employed between 900 and 1,000 in the small town of Postville. It is estimated that fewer than 100 are still entering the plant.
St. Bridget’s Catholic Church is hosting an awareness day for those affected by the raids. Rigoberta Menchu, a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize and an indigenous Guatemalan, will visit with local officials and residents of Postville.