Federal authorities have raided the country’s largest kosher slaughterhouse in an operation that appears to be aimed at rounding up undocumented immigrants who work at the plant.
Agents with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement branch arrived at the AgriProcessors meat-processing plant in Postville, Iowa, on the morning of May 12 and began arresting suspects for questioning, according to the agency.
“We can’t speculate on the final number, but it’s expected that 300 have been arrested so far,” said ICE spokesman Richard Rocha.
According to The Des Moines Register, immigration officials said that they expected to make between 600 and 700 arrests. In the past, AgriProcessors has estimated that it employs some 800 people at the plant. Detainees are being held in the nearby town of Waterloo, Iowa.
The United Food and Commercial Workers union has been attempting to organize workers at the plant for several years. “We feel strongly that these kind of overdramatic theatrical raids are done for political purposes and fail the test of legitimate law enforcement,” said union spokeswoman Jill Cashen.
AgriProcessors opened its Postville plant in 1987. Since then, the company has faced accusations that it has mistreated workers and improperly slaughtered animals. In March, the state fined the company $182,000 for health and safety violations.
With reporting from JTA.