Documentary filmmaker Luis Argueta to present ‘Abused: The Postville Raid’ March 7

March 4, 2010

Luther College will host a film screening and discussion session with documentary filmmaker Luis Argueta on Sunday, March 7, featuring Argueta’s new documentary production “Abused: The Postville Raid.”

The program, part of Argueta’s national speaking tour, will begin at 4 p.m. in Room 206 of Valders Hall of Science on the Luther campus. It is open to the public with no charge for admission.

Film producer Argueta will begin the program with a short introductory talk about the May 12, 2008, Postville raid conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and about his production of the documentary that chronicles the raid. The screening of “Abused: The Postville Raid” will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

Additional information about Argueta’s documentary project can be found at http://www.postvilleproject.org

The award winning director of “The Silence of Neto,” Argueta is visiting colleges, churches, synagogues, labor and community centers to present his “Abused” documentary that tells the story of the small northeast Iowa town decimated by one of largest ICE raids in the history of U.S. immigration law enforcement.

By weaving together the personal stories of the individuals, the families and the town devastated by the raid and its aftermath, the film presents the human face of undocumented immigration and the socioeconomic forces which fuel the worker migration. “abUSed” serves as a cautionary tale against government abuses of constitutional and human rights.

Argueta states the purpose of the tour is to create awareness of the on-going situation in Postville and in the Guatemalan mountain villages from which the workers migrated. He also hopes to contribute to the dialogue on immigration reform in the nation, and raise funds to complete the documentary.

Argueta has made eight trips to Postville and eight to Guatemala to compile the information and film the footage for “abUSed.” One of the trips to Guatemala was an ICE deportation airplane flight with 120 undocumented workers back to their country of origin.

Argueta’s tour has included presentations at a variety of venues, including the First Continental Forum on Migration and Peace in Guatemala, the Conference on Irregular Migration for the United Nations permanent delegates in New York City, Yale University, the University of Northern Iowa, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs in Chicago, CUNY Law School, John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, Cornell University, and the University of Michigan.

About 900 armed ICE agents supported by helicopters, airplanes, state troopers and local police conducted the May 2008, raid in Postville, population 2,320. Agents arrested, handcuffed and chained almost 400 undocumented workers from Guatemala and Mexico at Agriprocessors, Inc., the largest kosher slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant in the country.

The arrested workers were transported by bus to the National Cattle Congress in Waterloo, Iowa, which had been outfitted by the government as a detention and processing facility. Using the threat of imprisonment under an aggravated identity theft statute, a felony that carries a two-year jail term, prosecutors “fast-tracked” the undocumented workers into pleading guilty to document fraud and accepting deportation.

After the raids and the whirlwind legal proceedings, 202 of the workers were deported to Guatemala, returning home to poverty and adversity. In Postville, many businesses failed and many families lost their homes. Dozens of workers and family members were denied authorization to leave the state or to work, forcing them to depend on the charity of the church and community for survival.

Sholom Rubashkin, the former plant general manager of Agriprocessors, Inc., was tried and found guilty of bank fraud, but the federal government dismissed all 72 of the immigration and labor law violations filed against him. Because the allegations of labor abuses, wage theft, child labor law violations and other abuses endured by the immigrants will not be heard in court, “Abused: The Postville Raid” is one of the few public airings of their voices.