Saturday, July 14, 2012

Return to Postville

The New York Times Magazine this week features this story about Postville, Iowa, site of the 2008 ICE raid of Agriprocessors, the largest kosher meat producer in the United States.  The story is headlined, "Postville, Iowa, is up for Grabs," and the story documents the string of newcomers to the town since Agriprocessors set up shop there in 1987, bringing Orthodox Jews to the town.  Since then, workers from many nations have come--and gone.  The story mentions Russians, Ukranians, and Somalis in addition to the Latino/as more commonly associated with the town.  Photos of women in Muslim attire accompany it.  Indeed, a 2009 book called Postville USA:  Surviving Diversity in Small-Town America, also documents Postville's diversity.

That diversity seems to be the focus of Maggie Smith's story in this week's NYT Magazine, which includes this depiction of Postville, its 25-year experience with migration, and the consequences of the 2008 raid.
Postville--a town with no stoplights, no fast-food restaurants and a weekly newspaper that for years featured the "Yard of the Week"--had been through one of the biggest single-site immigration raids in U.S. history.  For 20 years, this community of schoolteachers, town officials, farmers and others had lived diversity up close, through influxes of Orthodox Jews, Guatemalans and Mexicans, in ways many people in larger cities never do.  The raid might have pushed that diversity out of Postville.  Instead, the post-raid, post-Latino years would create a more complex community and more big-city challenges for tiny Postville than anyone could have envisioned.  
Postville's population is about 2,200, up from 1,400 when Agriprocessors came in 1987, but down from the high water mark before the 2008 raid, which led to the loss of about 20% of the town's residents.

Read more about the Postville raid here and here.  My law review article about Latina/os in rural America is here.

Some other posts about immigration in relation to agriculture are here, here and here.

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