By Sister Mary McCauley
Lessons learned at the Postville, Iowa, Immigration Raid in 2008 stand vividly in my mind as our nation considers comprehensive immigration reform.
Hundreds of memories flood my mind and heart. Recollections of people from Postville and surrounding communities arriving to offer support, food, clothing, blankets, medical care, money and legal advice warm my heart. The vision of children crying as they feared they would never again see their mother or father breaks my heart. It challenges me to again think of women walking with GPS devices on their ankles carrying signs that read:
We are not criminals.
We came to work. We came to feed our families.
We are mothers.
That May 8 afternoon I stood in the unadorned rectory dining room of St. Bridget’s Parish, where I served as the pastoral administrator. It had suddenly became command central. I read a statement from Immigration Customs Enforcement or ICE.
The statement attempted to explain what had taken place at 10 that morning at Agriprocessors. I skimmed the paper hoping to make sense out of what was happening. I read one line after another and then my eyes fell upon these words:
“An immigration raid was conducted at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa in order to uphold the integrity of the law....”
I saw children searching for parents, wives searching for husbands. I saw faces filled with fear. At that moment my heart stirred and I realized that while our government claimed to uphold the integrity of the law it had totally ignored the integrity of the person, the integrity of the family, the integrity of a community, as well as the integrity of the values for which our country stands.
The profound respect and love for every person affected by the Postville raid and a desire to uphold American values demands we find a humane solution to the Postville scene and those like it. The rendering of relationships in ICE raids, the ripping apart the fabric of families, of children from parents and husbands from wives, demands we find ways to bring people together to benefit all.
After viewing what horrors the ICE raids wrought, we now have the opportunity to create humane solution to the broken immigration system and to reach out to government, to employers who unscrupulously take advantage of undocumented workers, to neighbors who fear the stranger, and to legislators who have been slow to rewrite our broken and callous laws.
Now is the time to say: Let us move on, let us respect and honor the dignity of all persons, let us recognize that laws have but one purpose — to ensure the common good. Now is the time to restore the integrity of the law, of the family, of our American values, of our country. Now is the time for comprehensive immigration reform.
Memories may sadden but they will never paralyze us. Our memories, our consciences, our integrity, our respect for the dignity of all persons, as well as our respect and love for our country call us unabashedly to do all that we can to turn the tragedy of Postville into victory for justice.
Sister Mary McCauley, BVM is a member of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Dubuque, Iowa.