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

Davood talks about Iran

We’re glad you’re a student at CMC, Davood! Thank you for telling us about your native country.

Q: Where are you from?

A: I was born in Tehran, the capital city.

Q: What’s your favorite food from Iran?

A: Meat kabobs.

Q: What was your job in Iran?

A: I went to college and studied auto mechanics. Then, I worked for a car company doing customer service and car repairs. I also worked at my father’s bakery, where we made bread by hand in a brick oven.

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

A: Iran is a very old country with very old religious traditions. The New Year is a special holiday in Iran celebrating the spring. Spring is the best time to visit Iran because the world is waking up and everyone is happy and kind.

 

#MeToo and Resilience

Us too.

In the wake of the growing publicity and number of allegations against Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo campaign has taken off on social media platforms. Women (and survivors of all genders) use the hashtag to identify themselves as survivors of sexual harassment, assault, or abuse. Some choose to share their stories, others prefer to post just the hashtag, sometimes including the message that “If all the women who have been sexually harassed, assaulted or abused wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

The hashtag has helped open the door to conversations about crimes of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse. The #MeToo campaign highlights what we know and see daily at CMC– this violence is not just something that stars and celebrities or people in other communities deal with. This is not a far away problem.

CMC residents screen printed shirts and other fabrics with empowering slogans like the one pictured for Women’s Equality Day 2018. The #MeToo campaign helps break the silence about sexual trauma.

Domestic violence and past sexual traumas are linked to myriad problems in a survivor’s future. ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) is a tool that assesses instances of trauma a person may have experienced in childhood in order to help better understand the long-reaching effects that those experiences have on a person. Sexual trauma in a woman’s past specifically put her at a higher risk of obesity, as well as many other potential challenges.

This is close-to-home. This happens in Iowa, in Cedar Rapids. With the rare exception, all CMC residents have been victims of crime, including domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking/harassment, or financial crimes. The multilayered effects of crime– including mental health and interrelated substance abuse challenges, low self-esteem, social isolation, homelessness, untreated medical conditions, debt and credit damage– can all present significant obstacles to a woman’s sense of stability. Past trauma can impact everything from employment success and housing eligibility to medical needs and capacity to build healthy relationships.

That isn’t the end of the story though– past trauma presents challenges, not total roadblocks. The residents here at CMC– along with women globally– work through those traumatic events and their effects in order to regain stability and discover their own resilience. With consistent support from CMC staff, women in the program are committed to working through the complex and damaging effects of past trauma and rebuild their lives.

We are honored to stand together and work for stability and resilience and equality for people. We echo what staff and residents and friends of CMC are all saying: us too.

CMC connects residents with resources like counseling and support services in order to work through adverse experiences and trauma. If you or a loved one needs immediate assistance, please reach out to the Iowa Help Line to speak with a trained counselor.
Chat: iowacrisischat.org
Phone/text: 
1-855-800-1239

Carly: On Recognizing Domestic Violence

A speech from the Transitional Housing Program’s 2017 Women’s Equality Day Celebration.

The powerful women with domestic violence experiences have only recently learned that domestic violence has come to gain some appropriate attention as a major social problem. However, speaking from personal experiences of my own, there are a lot of negative thoughts and beliefs that were drawn. I myself have recognized the traumatic aspects and chose to re-align my mental and social character to identify my own self-worth.

The aim of this speech is to share positive, effective education to those that don’t have the knowledge. As women we need to build one another up, speak out on our lifelong learning combined with eager approaches that will help others to acquire those coping skills, strategies and self-care, as well as we manage our wellness, boundaries and support services in our everyday lives.

If we don’t stand for something, the trends will never change. Nor shall we allow this to define who we really are today. Let us continue to take a stand and reach out.

Find additional Women’s Equality Day speeches from Ann and Lesa on our blog. 

Ann: On Health and Self-Care

A speech from the Transitional Housing Program’s 2017 Women’s Equality Day Celebration.

Again, thank you for joining us for Women’s Equality Day. I began a journey with the Catherine McAuley Center in February of 2017. It’s been a time of change and growth that centered me on both my mental and physical health.

I was supported by Catherine McAuley Center with a stable, safe, secure environment so I could focus on getting well. I had no idea the real barriers ignoring my mental health created. It took one person, Nat from EIHC (Eastern Iowa Health Center), to make that one phone call which led me to the Catherine McAuley Center.

I was homeless but not considered in immediate need of assistance. My daughter Peyton and best friend Char took turns giving me a bed to sleep in when there were no spots available in the overflow shelter. But really they couldn’t provide for me daily for an indefinite period of time. I had no idea the growth and positive change that would occur just being able to take care of myself.

I began regular visits to all of my healthcare providers including a therapist. Also, Catherine McAuley offers time in a learning environment to focus on our needs. I spent so much time trying to care of other people that I didn’t give any time or care for myself. After just 5 weeks of medicinal compliance, attending my diet with the Diabetes Education Center while being here I showed significant improvement in my health.

It’s important as women that we take the time to nurture our own needs. Be attentive to ourselves because I’m sure you’ve been told before you can’t take care of anyone else if we don’t take care of ourselves. This means taking the to time to speak with your primary provider and take time for preventative health care including mammograms and sexual and mental health needs.

There are still some out there who are unaware of the effects of untreated depression. It’s what contributed to my homelessness. Please trust yourself to communicate openly with your healthcare providers. Advocating for yourself is key and can’t be done if you can’t be heard.

Find additional Women’s Equality Day speeches from Carly and Lesa on our blog.