An Iowa judge recently postponed one of the trials for top executives at the Agriprocessors kosher meat company. The executives were charged with nearly 10,000 separate child labor violations after the company was the subject of a massive immigration raid last May. This postponement means that the full story of the underage workers arrested during a raid at the plant will not be told until next year, at the soonest, when the trial is now set to commence.
In the meantime, though, some of workers who were caught in the raid are finding other venues in which to tell their story. Many of the former workers have been interviewed for an upcoming documentary film, abUSed, which is being done by the Guatemalan director Luis Argueta. A more unexpected forum for the voices of workers came in a very novel piece of theater that has been playing in small towns around the Midwest over the last few weeks. The production is called, “La Historia de Nuestras Vidas,” or “The History of Our Lives,” and it stars seven former Agriprocessors workers who were caught in the raid and sentenced to five months in jail. The men were brought together by a group called, Teatro Indocumentado, or Undocumented Theater, and coached on how to deliver their stories on stage.
As the Forward reported last fall, many of the former workers have been released from jail but kept in the United States until the trial of Agriprocessors’s executives. The actors are all in this category, and they tell of their confusion in the play.
Our American Dream had become a nightmare.
And the land of freedom had become our prison.
We came here so that we could provide for our families, and improve their future.
But we’ll return to them with empty hands.
We made friends here, but now they are gone, deported, I don’t know where.
And meanwhile, we wait — without knowing for how long,
We are still waiting,
Unable to make a life here and unable to return home.
When the production appeared in Minnesota, a reporter on local public radio wrote, “The acting wasn’t stellar and the writing wasn’t award-winning, but the close of the play brought down the house, and everyone got to their feet to applaud the performance.”