Screening – In the Shadow of the Raid

Screening Monday 4th January, 2010

On May 12, 2008, immigration officials stormed a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, arresting nearly 400 undocumented workers in one of the biggest roundups in U.S. history.

Supporters of the raid celebrated it as a law enforcement victory while immigrant rights groups slammed it as draconian.

Meanwhile up a winding dirt road, a poor Guatemalan village was dying, and so was Postville itself.

The raid severed an economic lifeline linking the heart of the United States to one of the poorest corners of the Western Hemisphere, with an impact as far-reaching and catastrophic as any earthquake or hurricane.

However, this is not just another tale of misery in a far-off land. Postville itself was a boomtown before the raid — a rare exception in a part of rural America that has been emptying out as the changing economics of agriculture alter the social landscape. Now it is on the brink of economic collapse after losing much of its population and its main employer — all in the middle of the worst recession in decades.

Directed by Greg Brosnan and Jennifer Szymaszek

Brosnan and Szymaszek are freelance video producers for The New York Times. Brosnan has also been a print journalist for Reuters in New York, Guatemala and Mexico, and more recently has written for publications including Business Week and The Houston Chronicle. Szymaszek is also a freelance photojournalist, working mainly for The New York Times.