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Filmmakers document consequences of U.S. immigration raid

September 25, 2009 |  9:00 am

Back in May 2008, U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials rounded up 389 undocumented workers in the Agriprocessors Inc. kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa. The raid was the largest in U.S history.

Two weeks later, filmmakers Jennifer Szymaszek and Greg Brosnan started filming "In the Shadow of the Raid," a documentary film showing at the Morelia International Film Festival in Mexico. A 15-minute edit of the film was recently broadcast on PBS "Frontline's" website.

"In the Shadow of the Raid" delves into the consequences of the ICE raid for Postville and for some of the the migrants who were arrested and deported back to their homes in two rural villages in Guatemala.

Following the closure of the meatpacking plant, Postville businesses failed and livelihoods were destroyed.

In Guatemala, migrant Willian Toj returned to his wife and parents. Awaiting him was a massive debt that he accrued from his trip to the U.S. He had been working in the Postville plant for 20 minutes before the ICE raid.

Toj can barely earn enough to pay the monthly interest on the $7,000 debt, let alone get the funds to treat his mother's worsening cancer.

The tone of the documentary is observational rather than preachy, in the same vein as other recent works such as "Los Que Se Quedan / Those Who Remain." The filmmakers try to reflect some of the realities that contribute to why so many Central Americans and Mexicans head to the United States. But there are no ICE officials interviewed, no legal redresses sought. Brosnan and Szymaszek focus on the people affected by the raid, and the resulting film is a photographic testament to a sad reality.

Watch the video for more.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City.

Video: An interview with Jennifer Szymaszek and Greg Brosnan, directors of "In the Shadow of the Raid." All non-interview material courtesy of Szymaszek and Brosnan. Video interview by Deborah Bonello.

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