Immigration Raid: Over 300 Face Charges

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and Linn County officers escort some of those arrested on Monday after the Postville raid from a Homeland Security bus and lead them into Linn County Jail in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, May 14, 2008. (Courtney Sargent/The Gazette)

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By Nick Weig

POSTVILLE / WATERLOO - Officials call Monday's immigration raid in Postville the "largest raid of it's kind in Iowa history" and "the largest single site raid nationwide".

Officials say 389 (recently updated by officials) people were arrested in that raid. Just in, Bob Teig, with the U.S. Attorney's Office tells TV9 that 306 people face criminal charges including aggravated identity theft and false use of social security numbers.

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By Thursday afternoon the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo, where many of those arrested were being held, was nearly cleared out. Busses have been taking the the detainees to local jails after they are processed. No criminal proceedings will take place at the Cattle Congress until Tuesday, May 20th. Officials expect that everyone will be moved from the Cattle Congress by Thursday night.

"It's actually going to be completely different. We'll actually have three courtrooms going instead of one because we'll be doing all kinds of different hearings. This week we've all gone in the same direction at a very fast pace, next week we'll be going in a thousand different directions," said Rob Phelps, N. Iowa District Court Admin.

A number of judges and court personnel were temporarily relocated to Waterloo to help speed up the process. Lawyers have been assigned to those who are facing criminal charges. A temporary court room was set up in the Cattle Congress building, and two more were set up in trailors on the site.

The detainees who are not facing criminal charges are going through a different procedure. First they have a hearing before a federal immigration judge. The judge will decide if that individual has the right to stay in the U.S. If the judge orders deportation, the individual can appeal. Otherwise they'll return to their home country almost immediately.

"If they are the victim of a crime, victim of trafficking, domestic violence, they would have a legal remedy for which they could try a path to a visa or a path to permanent residence to stay in the U.S.," said Andrea Diaz, immigration attorney.

Attorney Diaz says many can't make those claims, even if they have children born in the U.S. A good number will probably agree to leave voluntarily.

"A number of people just want to get home. They still have family in the home countries and they want to get home and see those families and not be detained any longer," said Diaz.

Even though the cells are empty, federal agents are staying put at the detention grounds they leased through May 25th. That has prompted questions about whether another raid is pending. Bob Teig has acknowledged further arrests are possible but has not said whether company officials are being investigated.

Background
On Monday, May 12th, agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided the Agriprocessors Inc. meatprocessing plant in the NE Iowa town of Postville.

Agents executed criminal search warrants for aggravated identify theft and fraudulent Social Security numbers. Agency spokesman Tim Counts said that civil search warrants also were issued for illegal immigrants.

Those detained included 315 men, who were held in Waterloo at the National Cattle Congress, and 76 women who were held at the Hardin County jail. Check out the behind the scenes video, at left, to see footage of the living conditions, intake area and courtroom.

Officials say that the people who were detained are from four countries: Guatemala, Mexico, Israel and Ukraine.

Fifty-six of those arrested were released on humanitarian grounds. Most of those were released for childcare reasons, with a few being released for medical reasons.

Officials say they had 697 warrants, and with only 389 arrests, that leaves over 300 people unaccounted for. They said they were not going door-to-door looking for those people.

There were two injuries reported during the raid. One man hurt his leg while fleeing from officials. He was treated and is still in custody. An agent also hurt his leg in a stairwell.

St. Bridget's Catholic Church opened facilities for families affected. And there is a hotline for families involved: 866-341-3858.

On Tuesday, the first round of detainees were brought in front of the judge to make sure all of the charges filed are proper and all of the paperwork is filed correctly. The individuals facing charges were shackled and handcuffed. Within a week, they will all have another hearing during which the government will explain how it plans to proceed. Monday night was difficult for many of the detainees, but federal agents say they did their best to treat everyone fairly.

Those not facing criminal charges were held under administrative arrest for violating immigration rules. There will be no administrative proceedings in Waterloo. Those under administrative arrest will be moved to another I.C.E. facility, not necessarily in Iowa.

As of Tuesday, officials made no comment about legal action against managers or owners of the plant. They also did not comment on plans for other raids in this area.

In a statement released on Monday, Governor Culver said, "I believe it is important that we crack down on illegal immigration. Illegal means illegal. Not just those who cross the border, but also those who are responsible for helping make it happen -- traffickers, identity thieves, those who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, and anyone who has taken advantage of employees or turned a blind eye." Read the full release from the Governor's office by clicking on the link in "related content" on this page.

Agriprocessors is the world's largest kosher meatpacking plant. They employ between 500 and 999 people, according to Iowa Workforce Development. Agriprocessors is the largest employer in Allamakee County.

Please let us know if you or someone you know is affected by this raid. Email us at newsreleases@kcrg.com or upload your photos/videos at YouNewsTV.

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