Somalis on the march to Postville, Iowa

Update:   I only posted this a few minutes ago and already the story is changing.  See the Des Moines Register and note that the bloom is already off the rose at Agriprocessors.   Teach me to read all my e-mail from Blulitespecial before I write!

I have a pair of Somali stories for you this morning, both thanks to Blulitespecial, this is the first one.

Do you all recognize the town of Postville?  It is where the Kosher meat packing plant is, Agriprocessors, the one raided by the feds in May where 389 Hispanic illegal immigrants were found working.

Word of the raid reached Minneapolis, home of the largest Somali population in the US, and Somali men are now flocking to Postville to fill the jobs vacated by the illegal workers, some of whom were apparently underaged according to a story in the New York Times two days ago.  (Sorry, you will have to google that story, the link is screwy).

Here is what the Minneapolis Star Tribune is reporting:

POSTVILLE, Iowa – Scores of Somali immigrants are taking jobs at the nation’s largest kosher meatpacking plant, replacing Hispanic workers arrested in a huge immigration raid and forcing a remote Iowa town to make another cultural shift.

Before the May 12 raid at Agriprocessors, hundreds of Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants maintained a vibrant community in little Postville, a largely white community of 2,200 people in far northeast Iowa.

Now the stoops and haunts once occupied by Hispanics are being filled by about 150 Somali men.

The $13 an hour offered by Agriprocessors is drawing workers away from Tyson’s Food which has been the primary employer (Swifts too) herding Somalis from city to city and causing disruptions in places like Shelbyville, TN and Emporia, KS.

Regardless of previous claims, Somali workers such as Hassam Jilmale said he left work at a Tyson plant in Nebraska because he heard he could make more money with better conditions at Agriprocessors.

If the New York Times allegations are true, one of you volag do-gooders should be warning Hassam.

Then there is this comment by a Somali from Minneapolis involved in legal aid for Somalis.  Mark my words there will soon be special arrangements for Muslim prayer at the Jewish meatpacking plant:

“They go to these places and they’re not well equipped …” he said. “They do not speak the language. They do not know their legal rights and they live in fear of losing their jobs. They need someone who can bridge the two levels and balance the interests but they are not there.”

Then finally toward the end of the article is some mention of the town and its people.

The new Somali residents seem fine, but he [town resident] fears there is only so much upheaval the town can take.

“We’re just always adjusting and it’s scary, it’s hard,” he said. “We get all these new people and we don’t know who they are.”

Dear residents of Postville, to know what you are in for, read our archived stories on Shelbyville, TN here.  And, our category on the Somali controversy that swirled in Emporia, KS here.

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