ICE agents hauled hundreds of suspected illegal aliens out of an Iowa meatpacking plant today after two years of complaints. Agriprocessors will likely place a lot of ads in the Des Moines Register for open positions after losing most of its staff, assuming that its executives can keep themselves out of jail for violations of immigration laws. Agriprocessors is, or rather was, the largest employer in northern Iowa:

At least 300 people were arrested today at the Agriprocessors, Inc. meat packing plant, federal officials said.

The operation, which targeted people who illegally used other persons Social Security numbers and were in the U.S. illegally, was the largest of its kind in Iowa, said Claude Arnold, a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The workers arrested so far were interviewed by agents with the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Public Health Service. Public health officials were included to ensure that their humanitarian needs were being met, said U.S. District Attorney Matt M. Dummermuth. …

A total of 16 local, state and federal agencies, led by ICE, joined the investigation that began last October. Among them was the U.S. Marshals Service, the Iowa Department of Public Safety, the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, the Waterloo Police Department and the Postville Police Department.

Agents with ICE have received information about immigration violations at the plant over the past two years, according to a federal search warrant made public today. Authorities said they will release more details at another press conference tomorrow morning in Cedar Rapids.

Agriprocessors has a web site in which it claims that it has applicants lined up around the block when growth demands expansion. They also claim that most of their new-hires come from the families of existing employees, which puts today’s raid into some perspective. Once they started hiring illegals, apparently they tapped into resources for cheap labor rather than hire Iowans looking for work.

That’s not all. On another page, Agriprocessors holds itself and the community of Postville as a “model for integration of its different nationalities”. They proudly note that their work force consists of nationals from 30 different nations, which certainly would be a legitimate point of pride if they came to the US legally, which seems in question at the moment. Another example of the Agriprocessor boost to the local economy is shown in housing prices on the same page, which bragged that the median asking price for a single-family house was $33,800 in 2000, and that the average apartment rented for $175 a month. There’s also this:

Following the pattern of previous waves of U.S. immigration, many immigrants who move to Postville choose to live with relatives or friends. Some make this choice to save money, which they may be sending to relatives in their home countries; others double-up while looking for other housing options.

Doesn’t exactly sound like heaven, does it? The established residents of Postville probably didn’t appreciate the depressed real-estate values, especially since Agriprocessors didn’t feel the need to hire locally with all of the families traveling from 30 nations to double- and triple-up in houses and apartments. Small wonder the feds got so many complaints about the firm.

As much as 60% of Agriprocessors’ staff may find themselves in custody after today. I’d say the job market in Northern Iowa just improved dramatically.