Dynamic Diaspora: Women and Immigration

Part: 7

Arrested Iowa Meat Packers Live in Legal Limbo

Thursday, December 17, 2009

After 19 months of detention following an ICE raid on an Iowa meat processing plant, about a dozen immigrant women continue to wear tracking devices on their ankles while federal officials decide their fate.

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Close up of the monitoring device Quendi Garcia has worn since May 2008

Earlier this week, Women's eNews spoke with five of the 11 women who are still wearing the monitors. All of them said the devices create bruising when they walk and interfere with their sleep. The remedy officials have provided in some cases was to switch the monitor to the other leg, Aleman said.

Department of Homeland Security spokesman Tim Counts said some of the monitoring devices had been removed but he could not give an exact count. Counts said he did hear of complaints but has "no evidence of documented injuries."

Immigration reform advocates and a volunteer coalition of religious leaders, local citizens, lawyers, social workers and translators have expressed outrage over the decision to drop the federal immigration charges against the plant owner Rubashkin.

Leslye Orloff, director of the Immigrant Women Program at Legal Momentum, a women's legal defense and education fund in Washington, D.C., said dismissal of the federal immigration case denies abused women and child workers at the Postville plant the chance to bring the "perpetrator to justice."

Hinders U-Visas

It also makes it more difficult for the workers who were victims of crimes such as sexual assault and trafficking to obtain special visas (called U visas) that would allow them to live and work legally in the United States, said Parras Konrad.

"They went all the way with the immigrants, why not with the people responsible for hiring the immigrants," Parras Konrad said. "ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) planned the raid for 18 months to make an example of the immigrants and it showed. They just wanted to scare other employees."

Bob Teig, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said he could not comment.

Parras Konrad, the detainee's pro bono lawyer, is in Washington, D.C., this week to ask officials at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to take action on 20 complaints she filed in August 2008 involving child exploitation, rape, sexual assault and harassment at the Postville plant.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission findings on "the victimization they endured" could help her clients obtain U visas, she said.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission spokesperson Maria Flores said the agency does not confirm or deny that complaints have been filed.

Immediately after the raid, about 400 immigrant women, children and adolescent males fled to St. Bridget's seeking refuge as about 900 ICE agents surrounded the plant.

In the months that followed, St. Bridget's Hispanic Ministry Fund spent up to $80,000 a month for rent, heat, food and medical bills for those detained in Postville, Ouderkirk said.

Various press reports estimate the cost of the raid at $6 million but the federal government did not spend "one cent" to help St. Bridget's sustain those they detained for the federal immigration trial they no longer intend to hold, Ouderkirk said.

The church remains the clearinghouse for financial, legal, medical and emotional support for the former plant workers and their families. As people have left, spending has dropped to between $10,000 to $20,000 a month but the church still has to find the funds, Ouderkirk said.

Susan Elan covered politics at daily newspapers in the New York metropolitan area for more than a decade. She has also worked as a reporter for an English-language radio station in Paris.

For more information:

Legal Momentum

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

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Dynamic Diaspora: Women and Immigration

Dynamic Diaspora: Women and Immigration

Could you not call these women "immigrants". Its offensive. My mother was an immigrant. She didn't sneak across the border. She didn't steal jobs, healthcare, schooling, etc.
from Americans. She wasn't a thief. These women in your story are *illegals*. Not immigrants.

Webster states:


1. A person who comes to country where they were not born in order to settle there."

I believe that your definition is off. Was the owner of the Kosher meat factory the thief? The factory owners that these women worked for paid taxes to the government from the profit of the workers' labor.

If you have no faith in God, please ignore the following comment: Bible states that we should have compassion for the immigrant, orphans, and widows numerous times, and to pay fair wages.

Compassion for others and to treat people justly is what makes us HUMAN and differentiates us from animals or anything less than sub-human.


Series Overview

Dynamic Diaspora: Women and Immigration

Part: 12

Few Care for the Undocumented With Breast Cancer

Part: 11

Nebraska Prenatal Bill Stirs Fight Over Immigration

Part: 10

Visas Out of Hell: Women Need to Know They Exist

Part: 9

Deportation of Mothers in Iowa Tests Local Charity

Part: 8

Women's ESL Dominance Tied to Job Demands

Part: 7

For Street Vendor, Another Holiday in Shadows

Part: 6

Arrested Iowa Meat Packers Live in Legal Limbo

Part: 5

Battered Immigrants in Arizona Find Few Havens

Part: 4

Recession Shrinks Safety Net for Immigrant Women

Part: 3

Immigrant Survivors of Abuse Seek Freedom

Part: 2

U Visas Speed Up for Immigrants Who Flee Abuse

Part: 1

U Visa Recipients Look for Better Enforcement