Thursday, May 15, 2008

Catching Up

My whirlwind week is wrapping up. I'm glad I wasn't paying the gas for our cross-state commute to Waterloo. The detention site, camp, holding area...I don't know what the correct term would be is a bit surreal. It's the old National Cattle Congress grounds. They have dairy shows there. I think Cedar Falls High just held its prom there last weekend.

It almost doesn't look like our country. I'm not used to seeing prisoner camps like this. I've never seen so many federal agents in one place. Hundreds? The detainees, as you might guess, looked freaked out. At least many of them did. Some constantly shook their legs as they waited in the makeshift federal courtroom inside the Electric Park Ballroom. (A photographer at our station remembers making the drive there numerous times for dances back in the day). Other detainees showed no expression at all. It was hard to say what they were thinking or feeling. I wonder how many of them seriously thought this could happen.

Late Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Attorney's office in Cedar Rapids revised its detainee number. Not sure what happened. But it dropped from 390 to 389. I wonder how much this whole process cost? All the agents, the hotel rooms, the meals, the transportation, all the materials they brought to the cattle has to be millions. All the detainees are gone now. But the feds rented the place through May 25th. Is there a second raid in the works? The U.S. Attorney's office did acknowledge there were 697 complaints of fraud, identity theft, etc. at the Agriprocessors Plant in Postville. Yet the feds only nabbed 390 people. Oh, yeah, make that 389. Have all the others fled the area. Fled the state? Fled the country?

What about the bosses in all of this? Swift management and owners seemed to escape unscathed. How will the Agriprocessors higher ups fare?...they had no idea any of this was going on? Even though there seems to be almost as many complaints about undocumented workers as there are total workers at the plant? This story doesn't seem to be over just yet.

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