Postville recovering strong - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Postville recovering strong

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The immigration debate is gaining momentum in Eastern Iowa.

This week, federal agents raided the Midwest Precast Concrete facility in Mount Pleasant and arrested 32 undocumented workers.

This comes a few days before the 10-year anniversary of one of the biggest immigration raids in U.S. history.

Ten years ago, 389 illegal immigrants were arrested during the Postville raid.

Aerial video from May 12, 2008 shows the hundreds of workers being marched out of the Agriprocessors facility in handcuffs.

The undocumented workers were bused to the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo where they were processed before many of them were jailed and then deported.

The massive operation is leaving the community shattered.

The day after the raid, then-Mayor Bod Penrod said, "It leaves basically two-thirds of the housing empty. It will leave basically 95% of the downtown area empty."

At the time, nearly 15 percent of the Postville population was awaiting deportation. A majority of them were deported months after the raid.

In 2009 Agriprocessors was sold to a Canadian businessman. It has since been operated under the name, Agri Star. 

The new company owners promised better wages, better working conditions, and compliance with immigration laws.

But, the community continued to struggle. In the year after, 'For Sale and 'For Rent' signs were a common sight.

Even five years later, Postville was still working to recover.

"Foreclosures; All of our property values are down 25%, now, because of all the houses on the market that are in bad shape," said 2013 Postville City Council member Dawn Hernandez.

But, according to the current mayor, Leigh Rekow, who took office in 2009, Postville pushed on.

"We had a progressive council. We never looked back on the raid as anything bad. We just went about our business and kept going like we would normally," said Mayor Rekow.

Today, Postville continues to live up to its longtime slogan, "Hometown to the World."

The Latino population growing again.

"Doing well, we've worked ourselves out of debt. Our school is independent. We gain students each year," said Mayor Rekow.

Mayor Rekow says the debt was related to a $10-million treatment plant the city built for Agriprocessors.

The company was making payments until the raid and legal troubles caused Agriprocessors to file bankruptcy; leaving the payments stalled until Agri Star took over.

Friday, many people who witnessed the events and continue to be a voice for immigration reform gathered at St. Bridget Catholic Church in Postville to remember the 10th anniversary.

During the peaceful event, people called for compassion, equality, and justice for all.  Many people are concerned there hasn't been enough change in the last ten years. 

Watch KWWL's Special Report on the 10 years since the Postville Raid.

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