U.S. lease of Waterloo fairgrounds raises questions
By WILLIAM PETROSKI • REGISTER STAFF WRITER • May 6, 2008
Federal officials have imposed a news blackout at the National Cattle Congress fairgrounds in Waterloo, where they have leased almost the entire property through May 25.Tim Counts, a Midwest spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, known as ICE, declined to say Monday whether an immigration raid is pending that would use the fairgrounds as a detention center.
"ICE never talks about our investigative activity or possible future enforcement actions," Counts said. "Regarding the exercise in Waterloo, there is currently no publicly releasable information about that, so we aren't releasing any."He declined to say whether the "exercise" involves training or an immigration enforcement operation."We expect that at some point there will be additional information available, but I can't speculate at what point that might be," Counts said.
In December 2006, ICE conducted an immigration raid at the Swift & Co. meatpacking plant in Marshalltown. Many workers were transported to Camp Dodge in Johnston, where military barracks were used as temporary detention facilities. A total of 1,282 Swift workers were arrested in Iowa and five other states in the biggest crackdown in history on immigration violations at one company.The Waterloo Courier on Sunday reported that contractors have installed generators adjacent to many buildings at the fairgrounds.
In addition, windows on many buildings have been covered up, blocking views inside. A number of mobile-home-size trailers have been transported to the privately owned grounds.Doug Miller, general manager of the Cattle Congress, declined Monday to release a copy of his group's rental contract with U.S. General Services Administration. He also indicated he was in the dark about what's happening inside the fairgrounds."I have no idea. They are conducting whatever exercise they are conducting without telling me all the details of it. I don't have any information to share with you, really," Miller said.
Representatives of Gov. Chet Culver and U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin and Charles Grassley said they had no information about what was happening at the Cattle Congress fairgrounds.At Grassley's request, his staff called ICE officials on Monday."During the call, the ICE officials would neither confirm nor deny anything to Senator Grassley's staff," said Beth Pellett Levine, a Grassley aide.Armando Villareal, administrator of the Iowa Division of Latino Affairs, said he hadn't heard any reports about impending immigration raids. But he added that many Latinos in Iowa are feeling tension and fear.
"Folks have resigned themselves that something terrible is going to happen between now and the election. It is more like a resignation that something is going to happen," Villareal said.
Directive 51 (just for us conspiracy theorists):
The National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive (National Security Presidential Directive NSPD-51/Homeland Security Presidential Directive HSPD-20, sometimes called simply "Executive Directive 51" for short), signed by United States President George W. Bush on May 4, 2007, is a Presidential Directive which specifies the procedures for continuity of the federal government in the event of a "catastrophic emergency." Such an emergency is construed as "any incident, regardless of location, that results in extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions." 
The unclassified portion of the directive was posted on the White House website on May 9, 2007, without any further announcement or press briefings, although Special Assistant to George W. Bush Gordon Johndroe answered several questions on the matter when asked about it by members of the press in early June 2007.
(The Directive specifies that all three branches of government will work together, but be coordinated by the president even though all three branches are designated as equal in the Constitution and no one branch can dictate the actions of another.)