Humanities & Social Sciences
Surviving Diversity in Small-Town America
An inside view of a rural Iowa town torn apart by greed, failed immigration policy and misguided view of diversity. Postville (population 2400) is an obscure meatpacking town in the northeast corner of Iowa. Here, in the most unlikely of places, in the middle of endless cornfields, unparalleled diversity drew the curiosity of international media and outside observers. In 2008, however, people who hoped Postville would succeed declared the town's experiment in multiculturalism dead. It was not native Iowans, or the newly-arrived Orthodox Jews, or the immigrant workers and refugees from around the world who made Postville fail. Postville's momentum towards a sustainable multicultural community was stopped in its tracks when the town was crushed by a massive raid by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on May 12th 2008. 20% of the town's population was arrested, forcing the closure of the town's largest employer, a kosher meatpacking plant. The raid exposed the disastrous enforcement of immigration policy, the exploitation of Postville by activists, and disturbing questions about the packing house's operators. Today, with managers sitting in jail, workers in federal prison on their way to deportation, and a huge influx of new immigrants to fill their spots, the town is attempting to survive a near terminal blow. Grey and Devlin, with more than 10 years experience in Postville, 20 years experience in meat-packing plants and a life time work with immigrant populations, join with Goldsmith, the only Jew ever to serve on the city council, to describe the real events in Postville, which have been subject to misrepresentation in the media and by diversity professionals and detractors alike.