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Postville Raid Targets Tell Their Own Stories

New America Media, News Feature//Video, Cliff Parker, Marcelo Ballv Posted: Oct 19, 2008

Editors Note: On May 12 2008, in what was then the largest single-site workplace immigration raid in U.S. history, ICE agents burst into a kosher poultry processing plant in the small town of Postville, Iowa. 389 men and women, mostly Mexican and Guatemalan were picked up in those raids.

Over the next few months NAM contributing editor Marcelo Ballv and video producer Cliff Parker have followed the story of that town and the decisions the men and women made about their futures.

But what happens to the story when the reporter moves on? There is always the next raid, the next story. As raids happen in Laurel, Mississippi what happens to the women in ankle bracelets in Postville, Iowa?

After profiling some of the women in Iowa, NAM decided to provide them with flip cameras so that they could continue telling their stories. Here are some of the stories they told (and continue to tell) supplemented by the print reporting and videos produced by NAM.

Postville, Iowa Lifecast

One of the women fighting deportation is Mara Laura Gmez. "I didn't know anything about rights, or laws, or anything like that," says Mara Laura Gmez, 31, who arrived in Postville from Guatemala in 2005 and worked in the plant packing chicken parts into styrofoam containers.

One day, Gmez was on her way to sign a form agreeing to voluntary deportation when she received a call from assistants to lawyer Sonia Parras Konrad, informing her she might be able to attain a U visa, as a potential collaborator in a federal investigation into sexual harassment at Agriprocessors.

Gmez, who had worked at the plant packing chicken parts, took it as a kind of sign. "That was when I grabbed on to the idea of not wanting to leave, come what may," she says.

Read more about Mara Laura Gmez and the Postville 28 here

VIDEO: Life cast #1 of Mara Laura Gmez -- Why she is fighting deportation?

VIDEO: Here is the latest life cast from Mara Laura Gmez (Click image to play video).

This is a streaming MP4 video - you'll need Quicktime 6 or later to view it.

After Iowa Raid, Families in Limbo

Every day, they sit in homes and apartments around Postville, amidst the debris of their former lives, replaying the traumatic raid in their memories. With too much time on their hands, they worry, despair -- and theyre afraid.

Veronica CumezVeronica Cumez

"At night I can't sleep, because I'm afraid someone is going to come and grab me," says 32-year-old Veronica Cumez, who lives with her 14-year-old daughter on a street of orderly homes and lawns just east of Main Street. "Maybe it's nerves," she says, "but I think they're going to come again."

Each of the released workers wear an electronic ankle bracelet with a GPS device attached, so Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents can monitor their movements. They are not allowed to leave Iowa until the U.S. courts decide what to do with them. They have to charge the bracelet every day, and cannot ever take it off, not even to bathe.

Read more of Marcelo Ballv's story of the Postville raids here.

This is a streaming MP4 video - you'll need Quicktime 6 or later to view it.

Related Articles:

Bus Trip to Postville Protest Yields Surprises

Hispanic Caucus to Investigate Postville Trials

Interpreting the Largest ICE Raid in U.S. History: A Personal Account

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