Women’s Equality Day 2018

Each August, residents of the Catherine McAuley Center’s Transitional Housing Program, past and present, have welcomed the community to the Center’s lawn for a celebration of Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in August of 1920.

Samples of empowering Women’s Equality Day screen-printing designs frame a speaker from the Transitional Housing Program.

Rain or shine, event guests can be seen chatting over lunch catered by a woman-owned business, picking out their favorite inspirational message to have silk-screened onto a t-shirt by the women of the Transitional Housing Program, or applauding the three local female leaders who residents selected as recipients of a SHE-ro award for their Courage, Character, and Commitment.

But at the Catherine McAuley Center, Women’s Equality Day isn’t only a time to celebrate the historical accomplishments of women. It’s a time for the women we serve to exercise their own voices in our world today.

Transitional Housing residents not only work toward individual goals, but also discover how women can support one another.

Many of these women come to the Catherine McAuley Center having experienced trauma, but begin to discover their own resilience through weekly meetings with case managers, therapeutic and skill-building groups, and building relationships with one another through community activities.

That resilience is hardly ever more evident than on Women’s Equality Day, when messages from three residents invite guests to catch a glimpse of what life has been like for women in the Transitional Housing program. The speakers were confident as they shared about their history of trauma; surviving domestic violence, abuse, sexual assault and their struggles with addiction issues.

Women’s Equality Day offers Transitional Housing Program residents to share their voice with the community.

As guest speaker, Representative Kirsten Running-Marquardt explained, “Telling your story IS advocating for change. Those stories matter because you are real people.” The speakers stood tall and did just that with their messages that showed other women, “You can make it. You can be strong.”

In the poetic words of one of the speakers:

“I didn’t have a choice

But what I have now is a voice

And nobody can shut me up

Because a voice is louder than silence

And my voice tells a story of violence

And don’t forget, you have a voice too

No matter the [things] that you’ve been through

And many voices becomes a current in a river that drowns injustices

Be swept away”

May we all drown injustices with our voices.

Governor Robert D. Ray – Hero to Refugees, Compassionate Humanitarian, Moral Leader

By Caleb S. Gates, Refugee Case Manager & Advocacy Specialist

Legacy. I reflected on that word as I returned to Iowa from a visit out of state with my 100-year old grandmother. I arrived home in Iowa to learn that former Iowa governor Robert D. Ray had died.  I’ve wanted to meet Governor Ray in person over the past few years and regret I never met him. I admire Governor Ray for numerous reasons, but especially for his work and advocacy for Southeast Asian refugees.

The state of Iowa has a history of welcoming refugees because of Governor Ray. Back in 1975, Governor Ray and 29 other governors received letters from the Tai Dam people requesting they be resettled together in the US as refugees. The Tai Dam, a minority ethnic group from Northwest Vietnam, fled for their lives four separate times. Governor Ray alone answered this request and worked to bring hundreds of Tai Dam to Iowa, making the state of Iowa became the only US state to directly sponsor refugees.

In 1979, Governor Ray offered to resettle 1500 Vietnamese “Boat People” in Iowa. Later the same year, Governor Ray visited refugee camps in Northern Cambodia where he saw children die from malnourishment and disease. To help, Governor Ray formed the Iowa SHARES program to provide food and medical aid to these people.

Furthermore, Governor Ray advocated for the Refugee Act of 1980 which established our current national framework for resettling refugees. Ray’s influence moved fellow Republican legislators to support the Refugee Act. The 1980 Refugee Act may not be law today if not for Governor Ray’s support. I thank Governor Ray for his compassion and leadership to bring refugees to Iowa. I am happy to work in the shadow left by the late Governor as work with refugees continues here in Iowa.

Governor Ray’s work teaches me. I must learn from my mistakes. Governor Ray made some mistakes when Iowa began resettling refugees in 1975. Governor Ray and those initially involved in refugee resettlement made errors in judgement by elevating the Tai Dam over other refugee ethnic groups. Colleen Shearer, the Iowa Job Services director whom Governor Ray put in charge of resettling refugees, accused ethnic Vietnamese refugees of committing welfare fraud. Governor Ray backed her. The state refugee program also came into conflict other volunteer agencies working with refugees. But Governor Ray and those helping refugees learned from their mistakes and made changes to those programs. They repaired frayed relationships among agencies all seeking to help refugees.

Governor Ray teaches me to do the right thing in spite of fear of making mistakes and even with suspect motives. Governor Ray chose to bring refugees to Iowa when a majority of Iowans disapproved. Governor Ray had compassion for refugees, but also set up a state agency to resettle refugees to maintain control of the program. Governor Ray so opposed welfare, that some refugees were sanctioned or denied services for going on state cash assistance. I do not admire all of these motives, but I applaud Governor Ray’s actions.  On May 29, 1979 at a Congressional hearing, Governor Ray explained his decision to bring more refugees to Iowa. “I saw that we really only had two choices: we could either turn our backs as countless others suffered and died, or we could extend a hand to help, and in so doing prevent tragic loss of innocent lives. Actually, I saw only one real choice. I wrote President Carter January 17, informing him that Iowa would resettle an additional 1500 refugees during this year.

Governor Ray’s memory strengthens my resolve to better help refugees here in Iowa. When confronted by needs of others less fortunate than ourselves – whether here in Iowa or around the world – may we, like Governor Ray – be compelled to help.


To learn more about Governor Ray’s work with refugees, please read Matthew Walsh’s book The Good Governor: Robert Ray and the Indochinese Refugees of Iowa and a tribute to Governor Ray by Kenneth M. Quinn, World Food Prize President, former Ray staffer, and key player in the original resettlement of refugees in Iowa.

You can honor the memory of Governor Ray by working for or donating to the causes Governor Ray cared about.

Growing Hope

Garden and food pantry collageThis growing season, Daniel and Rachel are finding belonging and hope in the Catherine McAuley Center’s (CMC) community garden, where they will work side by side with other students, residents, and refugee newcomers to grow produce for their families and CMC’s food pantry.

“I want to garden because I like nature, and it’s in my nature to work, to dig,” says Daniel from Uganda. Rachel, a resident who will be tending to the CMC garden for a second season knows that making the garden a community effort is rewarding, “At the garden, we work as part of a team. We all enjoy reaping the produce and then cooking it together. It tastes better because we’ve grown it!”

Daniel and Rachel’s work in the garden is a great example of the inclusive community that is nourished at the Catherine McAuley Center—one where neighbors work together and embrace opportunities to not only better themselves and their families, but the whole community.

With a monthly gift of $20, you can provide the tools and opportunities needed for hope to grow inside and outside the garden:

  • Eight weeks of case management to help a resident reach her unique goals
  • Job coaching for one newcomer as they pursue new or better employment
  • A six-week class for students preparing for U.S. citizenship.

Your pledge of monthly support to the Catherine McAuley Center as a Mustard Seed giver will sprout into abundant opportunities for our neighbors to find belonging and hope. Will you help us branch out to help our neighbors thrive in new ways?

Making Sense of Border Policy

Family outside detention facility

A family outside the GEO Group-run Northwest Detention Center in Washington State. Photo by Seattle Globalist/Flickr

“I don’t understand the news about what’s happening at the border.”

“I am saddened and sickened by all of this.”

“I am ready to help!”

Abundant thanks to the many community members who have reached out to the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) over the last week out of concern for our neighbors affected by the current border policy.

At CMC, we believe in the dignity of every individual and that our future depends on inclusive communities that welcome, respect, and support a diversity of individuals and ideas. Like our partners at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), we stand for a border policy that protects children and respects the rights of persons seeking asylum.

Who are asylum seekers?

So are the asylum seekers in the news the same people CMC is serving? We know a lot of Eastern Iowans are asking this as they eagerly look for ways to be part of the solution.

To answer that question, it’s necessary to understand the difference between immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers first. This video explains it well:

Put simply:

  • Immigrants have moved to another country by choice, often for economic reasons.
  • Refugees have fled persecution in their home country and apply for refugee status overseas. They complete a rigorous vetting process before arriving in the U.S., where a resettlement agency like CMC provides comprehensive support for their first 90 days here.
  • Asylum seekers are also fleeing persecution in their home country, but arrive in the U.S. or at the border before applying for protection. International law grants them the right to apply for asylum in another country.
  • A series of short videos from UNHCR further describes the journeys of these migrant groups as they make their way to their new homes.
Welcoming refugees

CMC volunteers welcome a member of a refugee family at the airport

CMC encounters people from each of these groups through our Adult Basic Education, Resource Navigation, and Employment Support services, all of whom are coming to CMC for opportunities to build skills, find stability, and make meaningful connections with the community. Only people with refugee status (those who applied for protection while overseas) are eligible for CMC’s resettlement program, which is conducted according to strict specifications from the U.S. State Department.

Though the people seeking Catherine McAuley Center services may not be the exact faces you see on the news coverage of the detention facilities along the border, many of the people we serve also came to the United States in search of safety or greater opportunities for their families. Each gesture of welcome toward them is creating an inclusive, engaged community that will continue to advocate for our neighbors at home and abroad.

Supporting a welcoming community

To support a welcoming community here in Eastern Iowa, you can:

Volunteer
Become a tutor for one of the 100+ adult learners on our waiting list or share your time and skills with CMC in another way.

Give
We appreciate donations of any of the items on our wishlist that stock our food and hygiene pantry or are used to set up a newly-arrived refugee family’s home. You can even host a food or supply drive with your place of worship, employer, or other social group!

We also rely on donations from individuals to support our mission of offering hope and opportunity to our neighbors. Monetary gifts allow us to continue pursuing new opportunities to better serve our neighbors!

Spread the word
Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates, and let your friends know how they can get involved! And as you learn more about the issues you care about like border policy, consider sharing your concerns with your federal elected officials.

Thanks for working together with us for an inclusive community!

AbUSed: The Postville Raid panel discussion

Luis Argueta, filmmaker

“So, my purpose was to come to Postville for four days, interview a couple people, go back to New York and put all those interviews in a series that I have on YouTube about immigrants. Well, those four days turned into two weeks, and that first trip turned into 29 trips before this film was completed.

The reason that happened is because I met Father Paul and Jennifer Cooley and Sister Mary and the immigrants who you saw in the film. Their stories were so impactful that it made me realize that I didn’t know anything about immigration, even though I am an immigrant myself. And second, that this was a very complicated story that deserved a lot of attention.

Now ten years and three films later, I’m still coming back.  And every time I come back, it’s like coming home.”

Filmmaker Luis Argueta, was captivated by the stories in Postville, Iowa, following one of the largest immigration raids in U.S. history. In April, community members gathered at the Cedar Rapids Public Library for a screening of Luis’ film AbUSed: The Postville Raid, and a panel discussion among people with firsthand experience of the aftermath of the raid. Here, we share some highlights from their conversation.

Film screening

Could you talk about the legal aspects of the Postville raid? From the legal perspective, what was unusual or unique about what happened there?
Yer Vang

Yer Vang speaks about the legal aspects of the Postville raid

Yer Vang, Director of Immigration Legal Services at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque:

 

What’s unique and different, I think, for many of us, we think of Law and Order. Every individual defendant gets their chance in court and they have a right to counsel. And if they can’t afford an attorney, the government is supposed to provide them with a public defender. Not so in the context of immigration law. And I think what’s hard for people to understand is immigration law is this hybrid of administrative law that’s not in the context of our judicial branch. But, in fact, under our executive branch, under the Department of Justice.

So even though the proceedings may feel like a criminal proceeding, these individuals [in Postville] were not allowed to have an attorney present… Even to this day, immigrants in immigration court are not guaranteed immigration lawyers. Not even children. They’re expected to defend themselves in front of a judge, in front of a government attorney who’s trying to deport perhaps a 15 or 13-year-old immigrant.

The other piece that I think is unique about this that you heard in the documentary was how fast these 389 individuals got processed… As the video shows, many of these folks were coerced or … assigned immigration documents that said “I’ll take this plea so I don’t have to sit in detention for longer than necessary and then be deported.” And many of these individuals did not understand the immigration consequences or the long-term consequences of signing these forms or taking these plea deals.

But I also want to highlight another very important piece of immigration law that this incident also raises, which is a U-visa, which affords immigrants who are victims of certain crimes to be able to seek temporary relief and stay in the United States and work lawfully. In Postville, many of those would qualify for the U-visa.

And so, attorneys, such as myself, could then assist immigrants to screen and see if they could qualify for the U-visa.  Now they also had to still show not only were they victims but that they cooperated or were willing to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation of such crimes. And so, it’s really not just saying I’m a victim, but going through the multiple steps and proof of identifying that you’re a victim. That you’re cooperating with law enforcement… But I think what’s even more sad, is that several of the individuals weren’t screened for immigration relief and could have avoided being detained and deported.

I think this incident in Postville raises a lot of constitutional questions that people have and concerns.  Unfortunately, I think our immigration law has not kept up with the changes of what’s needed and the larger fix, I think has to do with legislative fixes that change certain protections for immigrants. Because immigrants, if they’re processed in such a way, should be allowed a right to legal counsel. But that’s not the case as it stands right now.

 

What practical steps can those here this evening take to become strong Rosa Parks for the immigration system?

 

Dr. Jennifer Cooley

Dr. Jennifer Cooley encourages the audience to stay informed

Dr. Jennifer Cooley, Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Northern Iowa:

 

I may make mention, just being here tonight is the first step. Being aware of our history, because as Americans we have a tendency to forget our history.  We have collective amnesia sometimes.  Or selective amnesia.  If we remember, as we saw in the video, despite some of the horrific things that happened, there were some good things that came out of it.  Legislatively and bill-wise, right?  Having immigrants being advised of the consequences to the immigration.

I think in light of this past year and a half, the … fear and anxiety in immigrant communities all across this nation is real.  We know, and I know I hear first-hand from my clients as well as people in the community know, again the fear that most immigrants are so afraid of going out, that they don’t leave. All they do is stay at home.  Perhaps maybe go to church and perhaps go to work and get their kids to school, and that’s about it.  And so, when you think about immigrants living in fear constantly, daily, how that affects their psyche, it’s indescribable what it does to a person and young people.

But I think, steps that you all can take is to educate yourself, to be aware of these issues, regardless of where you stand on immigration. And I think it’s so important to know the facts and not buy into the myths and the rumors about what, the rumors of immigrants dealing daily with in the jobs.  But really understanding the true facts of what immigrants offer to this country and that immigrants are part of the social fabric of our lives and build our communities and that they add value rather than detract or are negative blights on our community.

It’s so important that when issues like this come up, that we speak out and be present and let our representatives and legislators know… But we need people like you to speak up and speak loudly about laws that really are unfair and unjust and do more harm than good for our communities.  Not just for the immigrant community, but our community.

 

Ai Talks about Japan

Japan factsWe’re glad you’re a student at CMC, Ai!  Thanks for telling us about your native country.

Question: Where are you from?

Answer: I was born in Osaka, but I moved to Tokyo when I was young.

Question: If I went to Japan, what places should I visit?

Answer: You should visit Kyoto, the old capital.  It has Buddhist temples and many old buildings.  Hot springs are also a good place to visit, especially on Hokkaido.  Hokkaido is the big island above the main island of Japan.  It’s a lot like Iowa: it is more open and has a mix of farms and cities.

Question: What do you want people to know about Japan?

Answer: Japan has good customer service.  We have no tipping system, but the service is very good.  In Japan, people always apologize for mistakes, even if it isn’t their fault, because the customer has the right.  Also, I want people to know Japanese restaurants here are not really Japanese.  For example, we don’t put cream cheese or avocado in sushi rolls.

 

Response to UN Ambassador Haley’s Statement on Syrian Refugees

March 2018 marked the 7-year anniversary of the start of the Syrian Civil War, now one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. Altogether, 43.2% of Syria’s 22 million people have unwillingly left home. Percentage wise, this would be as if 1.36 million Iowans were forced to flee the state in less than a decade.

Since the beginning of 2018, only 11 Syrian refugees have been allowed to enter the United States. In 2017, 3,024 Syrian refugees entered the U.S., and in 2016, 15,479. Entrance numbers in 2016 may sound large, but only equate to .3% of the 5.4 million now-stateless Syrians.

 

Recently, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, was asked how the U.S. can justify admitting only 11 Syrian refugees this year. Ambassador Haley responded, “[Syrian refugees] want to go home…Not one of the many I talked to ever said we want to go to America.” Haley’s answer misleads. She implies that the U.S. only admitted 11 refugees this year because these refugees want to return home to Syria.

Understand, no one chooses to be a refugee. No one wants to be a refugee. Given the choice, refugees would return to their home country. But they cannot. To qualify as a refugee, these Syrians must have fled Syria and have a well-founded fear of persecution because of who they are or what they believe. Though Syrians long for their country, they cannot return because they, their spouse, and their children would be killed if they return.

Only about 1% of refugees every year are resettled in a third country like the United States. These individuals apply and, after thorough vetting which can take several years, arrive in a new country to make their home. Many request come to the U.S. because they have relatives or friends already here. They ask to come to the U.S., not because they want to leave their country, but because their country is no longer safe and no hope remains for a solution in the near future. Refugees often feel the tug of home. Many would prefer to return to their country of birth in peace. But peace eludes their country, so they remain here and create a new life for themselves and their children.

Given the bloody Syrian conflict, the United States’ history of welcoming refugees, and our capacity to continue doing so, allowing only 11 refugees in this year is a failure of moral duty. Our leaders cannot claim to care for Syrian children poisoned by chemical weapons, and then refuse to allow Syrian refugee children to enter the United States. We call on our leaders to put pressure on the Department of Homeland Security to continue security screenings of Syrians. We call on our leaders who pressure our President to allow more refugees from Syria. As the bloody civil war in Syria continues, bringing Syrians who fear for their lives to safety in this country is the least we can do.

 

Caleb Gates, Refugee & Immigrant Services Case Manager and Advocacy Specialist

 

Statement on “Anti-Sanctuary City Bill”, SF481

Iowa outline on welcome wallCaleb Gates, Refugee Case Manager & Advocacy Specialist

We here at the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) lament the signing into law of SF481, the so-called “Anti-Sanctuary City Bill”. SF481 mandates that state and local law enforcement honor immigration detainers. An immigration detainer asks local law enforcement to detain a person held in custody for 48 hours to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to come and detain and possibly deport certain individuals. Under the current administration, any undocumented person – even parents of young children who pose no threat to public safety – are now a priority for deportation.

An immigration detainer is not a warrant. It does not require probable cause. Federal courts have ruled the mandating of immigration detainers to be unconstitutional. Immigration detainers can be used against legal residents of the US merely accused, but not convicted, of a criminal or civil offense. As SF481 becomes law, any state and local law enforcement agency here in Iowa, as well as other local entities (possibly including public schools) who refuse to honor ICE detainers will be stripped of all state funding.

The Catherine McAuley Center works daily alongside students, volunteers, and other community members to create an inclusive community. We support the right of every Iowan to feel secure, and commend the work of our state and local law enforcement to keep us safe. Iowa law enforcement universally opposed SF481. Police chiefs and officers around the state rely on trust and cooperation of local communities to serve and protect those same communities. SF481 could erode trust of law enforcement among Iowa’s immigrant communities. This law is likely to degrade, rather than improve, public safety.

SF481 sends a message that Iowa is not a welcoming and inclusive state. At CMC, we welcome those born in this country and those who recently arrived, those whose first language is English, and those for whom English is their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th language. We welcome all residents of Iowa no matter how they came to live here. We support families, including immigrant families. No child should fear being separated from their mother or father who poses no threat to our society and only wants to work to support their family. We call on our legislators and government leaders spread love, not fear, toward our fellow Iowans, including our newer residents. We call on native-born Iowans to accept, not reject, Iowa transplants no matter their country of origin. We call on ourselves to welcome, not repudiate the migrant, the refugee, the undocumented, the asylee, the displaced, and the stateless. Despite this legislation, we will fulfill our mission by promoting inclusion and standing in solidarity with every resident of Iowa.

Silvia talks about Guatemala

Infographic about Guatemala. 21 CMC students are from Guatemala.We’re glad you’re a student at CMC, Silvia! Thanks for telling us about your native  country.

Q: Where are you from?

A: I was born in Guatemala City, but my family is originally from San Marcos.

Q: What’s your favorite food from Guatemala?

A: Tamales are a traditional food in San Marcos. They are very different from Mexican tamales. My grandmother made tamales with rice, not corn. We’ve tried to make them here, but it’s hard to find the ingredients, and they take a long time to make.

Q: What do you want people to know about Guatemala?

A: I don’t want people to say, “Where is that?” I want all people from all walks of life to know that yes, Guatemala is a country with honest people, proud, heartwarming, welcoming and, most of all, hardworking people to make a significant impact on the world. I want others to know that we are a country just like the U.S. full of diversity in ethnicity, religion, and age.

When people make a voyage to Guatemala, it’s to see the Mayans, but they are also in a country that holds many more wonders yet to be seen.

 

Remembering Lynsey

Lynsey Brown, globe, and study materials collageSo often here at the Center we get caught up in the schedule and the hectic rush of tutors and students. We sometimes forget to give a heartfelt “Hello, how are you?” or we think we’ll check in next time/next week. This past week we lost a dear member of our extended family of learners and educators.

Lynsey Brown came to tutor twice a week for almost three years. She gave her time and she gave her knowledge of educating others to her students, to staff, and to other tutors. We often had our new tutors observe her teaching – we knew she did a stellar job and could give each new tutor-learner a good idea of how to make a real and lasting connection with their student. She had a smile that caused a reciprocal smile back, every time. Education staff heard her and her students laughing down the hall and knew learning was being done and that it was fun!

Every moment she spent here was cherished by her students, Hector and José. Hector told us this past week, “She taught me good things. We laugh a lot because I don’t know any friends—she was good American to talk to and a friend.”  Staff commented all week that she was giving, open, and truly a gem to have in our tutoring family.  Leeann remembered her as “kind, gentle, and filled with good intentions” and Katie remembered her as “a gifted teacher who was ready to help any student. Staff and students alike always seemed so comfortable in her presence.”

Lynsey asked her family to be sure Catherine McAuley Center received her furniture as donation for refugee and immigrant families as they begin new lives here in Eastern Iowa. Her kindness, thoughtfulness, and truly wonderful spirit will be greatly missed here at the Center. We know that the Center is now imbued with Lynsey’s energy of goodwill and her delightful laughter. She’s helped us to remember that the moment it takes to wish someone well, or check in with each other, can and should be taken—nothing is more important than the connections we continue to make with one another.

Anne and the CMC Education team