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5/14 Postville, IA: 20 former Agriprocessors workers obtain visas
Released 27 May 2009  By Associated Press

20 former Agriprocessors workers obtain visas

http://www.gazetteonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090515/NEWS/70
5159956

POSTVILLE (AP) - Twenty former workers at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant
in Postville have received visas under a law that protects crime
victims.

The first wave of women and children arrested last year at the plant
have been granted U-visas by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services,
allowing them to legally live and work in the country for four years.
They can apply for green cards in the third year.

Sonia Parras-Konrad, a Des Moines attorney who led the effort, said the
visas are a big step toward vindicating the immigrants and giving them
justice.

"A government entity has found, indeed, that these women and children
have been subjected to extreme emotional or physical harm by
Agriprocessors," Parras-Konrad said. "These people have been exploited,
have been assaulted, have been humiliated, have been verbally and
emotionally abused by this employer."

To be eligible for the visas, the former workers must meet several
requirements, including assisting authorities in any pertinent
investigations.

Maria Gomez, 31, said that when Parras-Konrad told her about the visas
over the phone, she couldn't catch her breath and could mumble only a
quick "thank you." Gomez had an electronic monitoring bracelet removed
just last week.

"I ran home and I started to cry for joy," she said.

Most of Gomez's relatives have been deported to Guatemala. She hopes her
husband will soon secure a visa. The only reason he was not deported,
she said, was because he was not working at the time of the raid.

Bob Teig, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cedar Rapids,
said the workers are not innocent bystanders and admitted to using false
documents to work in the U.S. illegally.

"The thing being overlooked repeatedly is that they broke the law, and
they all admitted it," he said.

Parras-Konrad said 32 visa applications are pending. None has been
rejected, she said.


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