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Catholic leaders upset by commuted sentence of former Iowa businessman

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POSTVILLE (KWWL) -

Following President Trump's commutation of former Iowa businessman Sholom Rubashkin on Wednesday, Iowa Catholic leaders are speaking out. 

Rubashkin was sentenced to 27 years in prison for money laundering in 2009.

Rubashkin ran Agriprocessors, a meat-packing plant in Postville. He was convicted for turning in fake invoices that made the company's finances appear better than they were, so he could borrow more money.

The FBI's investigation also revealed Rubashkin's use of illegal immigrants in the plant. 

In May 2008, the FBI raided the Agriprocessors plant and arrest nearly 400 immigrants, making it one of the largest raids under President George W. Bush.

The workers, mainly from Mexico and Guatemala, were brought in by Rubashkin with the promise of a better life, but were left with nothing following the raid.

"The community was torn apart," said Sister Mary McCauley, who witnessed the devastation firsthand. Sister McCauley was the Pastoral Minister at St. Bridget Church in Postville at the time of the raid.

The church opened its doors and allowed the families of the immigrant workers to take refuge there.

"One woman who was in the plant and she said, 'They pointed a gun at me and all I could think of was my daughter.'" recalled Sister McCauley.

The initial trauma of the raid was followed by weeks, months of uncertainty. The immigrants were housed in community buildings throughout Eastern Iowa with ankle bracelets to monitor their movements; others were deported and many were sent to jail.

"They did not know how they were going to survive. I just saw desperate faces. I saw huge fear. Yet, I saw a great deal of support from the Postville community and neighboring communities that came to our rescue," said Sister McCauley.

It is these memories that made the news of Rubashkin's commuted sentence hard to swallow for many involved in the aftermath of the raid.

"I was just utterly dismayed, I was really in a state of shock. Tears came to my eyes because I thought of all the people that had been hurt because of the tragedy of that particular Postville raid," said Sister McCauley.

Despite the years that have passed, she says nothing has really changed.

"We really have to take a look at justice because how we treat our immigrants, how we treat people who are being deprived of their rights, who are really hurting, who are hungry, characterizes our country," said Sister McCauley, who has been an advocate of immigration reform since the incident.

Sister McCauley is now calling on the bipartisan supporters of Rubashkin's commuted sentence to change the way immigrants are treated and to create a clear path to citizenship.

This May will mark 10 years since the raid. Along with others, Sister McCauley is working to organize an event to recognize the impact of the raid and continue the push for immigration reform.

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