Giving supports refugee resettlement and support

Dear Friends,

As a friend of the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC), you know that our refugee and immigrant neighbors are finding valuable connections at CMC. But did you know that last year, 260 refugees made Eastern Iowa their home with the Center’s help? These neighbors who have experienced untold violence in their lives now have housing, medical care, education, and employment right here in our community.

While this is something to celebrate, recent federal changes and executive orders threaten the ability of some of our newest neighbors to reunite with family members who are still living abroad in refugee camps.

  • A recent executive order allowing states and municipalities to opt out of resettlement continues to create a culture of mistrust and can send a message that refugees are not welcome in our communities.
  • No more than 18,000 refugees will be admitted to the U.S. this year, down from 110,000 in 2017. This is an all-time low in the history of refugee resettlement in the U.S.
  • A week-by-week moratorium on all refugee resettlement in late 2019 meant CMC went without resettlement revenue for nearly three months.
  • The recent expansion of the 2017 travel ban restricts immigrant visas for individuals from six additional countries, preventing some clients at CMC from reuniting with their families.

Mother and child reunited

In the face of this unpredictability and uncertainty, individual giving is more important than ever. Will you take a stand for the dignity of our neighbors, here and abroad, and give?

While changes to the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program are out of our control, you can bolster the educational and supportive services available to all CMC clients—refugees, immigrants, adult learners, and women experiencing crisis. Together, we can work together for an inclusive community in these volatile times.

With hope,

Give button

Paula Land signature

Paula Land
Executive Director

P.S.  Setting up a monthly gift offers hope and opportunity to our neighbors all year long.

English Classes with Raining Rose

Raining Rose facilityIn October 2019, CMC was offered a unique opportunity to partner with Raining Rose and expand our education services outside of the Center. Raining Rose is a manufacturer of personal care products based in Cedar Rapids, as well as a consistent employer of immigrants and refugees, some of whom have settled in the area through CMC’s services. Due to language barriers in the workplace, Raining Rose reached out about a partnership that would involve on-site English classes for their employees – a need CMC is uniquely equipped to meet! 

Angie Miller, our Tutor Student Liaison, has been teaching at Raining Rose since the beginning of the program in October. She teaches classes on site on Mondays and Wednesdays at 2 and 3 p.m. to accommodate both first and second shift workers. This is one of the many advantages of this partnership – it offers even more flexibility for students to coordinate classes around their busy work schedules.

Angie Miller

Tutor Student Liaison, Angie Miller, shares a sample of one of her lessons for students

There are plenty of familiar faces, between employees who have previously used CMC’s Refugee & Immigrant Services and others who have sought out additional English lessons at the Center or one of our satellite locations. Angie says that building relationships with her students and other employees has been one of the most notable highlights, along with the opportunity to get consistent teaching experience.

Unlike the one-on-one tutoring sessions offered at the Center, Angie’s classes can include up to ten students at a time. The results have been just as noticeable, however, even though classes have only been taking place for a few months. Angie says that she has been approached by multiple Raining Rose employees who have noticed an increase in clear, confident communication from her students. 

Raining Rose has been the Center’s first partnership like this, and will hopefully be the first of many. Language barriers can be a common obstacle for immigrants and refugees as they look for employment, but there are always solutions to be found. CMC will be looking for more partnership and outreach opportunities, as well as looking forward to continuing our work with Raining Rose.

Refugee Child Care Program Businesses Opening

Refugees coming to the United States are faced with an array of overlapping challenges – finding a new home, new sources of income, access to transportation, schooling, and child care for their children – all while working through newfound cultural and linguistic barriers. The Catherine McAuley Center’s Refugee and Immigrant Services seek to offer an all-encompassing solution to many of these challenges, while at the same time addressing Iowa’s growing need for child care through the Refugee Child Care Business Development Program. To provide some context here, the deficit in child care spaces exceeded 24,000 in Linn County at the beginning of 2019, when considering all children under the age of twelve. 

In October 2018, the Catherine McAuley Center received a grant from the United States Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to begin training refugees who have been in the country for five years or less to run their own in-home child care businesses. While the specific training services are offered through Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R), CMC connects clients with the necessary agencies and offers interpretation services throughout the training process. More recently, the Iowa Women’s Foundation has offered additional funding to the program in order to provide the same opportunities for refugees that have been in the United States for more than five years.

The CCR&R training sessions typically take six months to complete, and they thoroughly cover health and safety, CPR and first aid, and mandatory reporting required by DHS. Additionally, business training and English for child care are provided through CMC, which can also help refugees grow their business outside of their own circles. 

The Refugee Child Care Programs first training session attracted coverage from several local media outlets.

One of CMC’s clients who participated in the first cohort, Julienne, has recently turned her home into a full-time child care business. As a mother herself, she says this program has offered her the opportunity to accommodate her own needs while also helping others. Julienne is able to stay at home with her own young children while also taking in 4-5 others on a daily basis, covering both first and second shift – which is a huge benefit for families that don’t work around a 9-5 schedule. For Julienne, this means full-time work and a consistent salary, while also offering a flexible, multicultural child care opportunity for other families. Issues of scheduling and linguistically- and culturally- appropriate care are often overlooked, but can be critical for refugee families.

Julienne’s cohort began training in May 2019. Eight participants completed training, with five going on to start their own child care businesses. The second cohort started training in October 2019 with seven participants, several of whom are expected to open their own Family Child Care (FCC) businesses by April 2020. Between the first two cohorts and a partner organization in Iowa City, a total of seventeen refugees have completed training and registration – and that doesn’t take into account  a third cohort that is set to begin training this year. At the beginning of the program, the projected outcomes included having 38 participants complete the Child Development Home (CDH) registration process, 36 participants establish FCC businesses, and for all participants to increase their household income by 50% after six months. As the program nears its halfway point, these projected numbers are nearing their respective halfway points as well.

The ultimate goal is sustainability beyond the end of the program, and seeing each business turn into full time work with reliable income. At the end of three years, we hope to see 144 new child care spaces open! While this may seem like a small amount compared to the need, this is a significant number for one community – especially for a program with plans to keep expanding. With the right training and resources, the Refugee Child Care Business Development Program can offer refugees long-term solutions to the challenges that they face, and business opportunities that benefit our entire community.

Response to Governor Abbott’s Refusal to Resettle Refugees in Texas

By Caleb Gates, Refugee Case Manager and Advocacy Specialist

The Catherine McAuley Center strongly condemns Governor Abbott’s decision to refuse to allow new refugees to resettle in Texas. Governor Abbott’s decision to reject refugees was enabled by President Trump’s executive order which allows governors or local officials to forbid new refugees from being resettled in that state or locality. President Trump argues that allowing state and local governments to refuse refugees is necessary to protect national security and improve local control, but this executive order is cruel and likely to be unlawful.

Refugees are some of the most vulnerable people in the world, and they come to this country because they had a well-founded fear of persecution in their home country due to who they are or what they believe. These refugees had to flee their own country to protect themselves. They want safety, freedom, and the chance to build a life for themselves and their children. Forbidding refugees from being resettled in Texas is cruel and unnecessary. 

The refugee resettlement process is effective and safe. Every refugee is thoroughly screened and vetted before arriving in the United States. This was the case under President Obama and previous administrations. Since 1980, more than 3 million refugees have come to this country and during that time, no American citizen was killed in a terrorist attack committed by a refugee. A refugee is far less likely to commit a crime than someone born in the United States. These refugees have enhanced our country, our culture, and our economy. 

The Refugee Act of 1980 gives authority on implementation of refugee resettlement to Congress and the federal government, not state and local governments. While the President has the authority to determine the number of refugees allowed into the country each year, the law does not allow the President to delegate veto power to state and local governments over refugee resettlement.  President Trump claims this change was needed to protect national security, the same argument that the President used to implement the 2017 travel ban, which banned people from several Muslim-majority countries. This legal authority undermines President Trump’s executive order because if banning refugees is a matter of national security, then states and local governments cannot ban refugees because states and local governments have no authority over matters of national security. In this instance, Governor Abbott is overriding local control because the mayors of Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio have all given their endorsement to continue refugee resettlement in those cities. 

The argument for local control as a basis for vetoing refugee resettlement recalls shameful chapters in the history of our country. Before and during the Civil Rights era, the local control argument was used to allow state and local governments to protect segregation of black Americans from white Americans. At many points in our history, going back to at least the early 1800s, state and local governments used local control to prevent or restrict immigrants from settling within those jurisdictions or denying full civil and civic rights to those groups.

As of this writing, a Federal judge has temporarily blocked Governor Abbott’s order from going into effect while litigation is pending. We applaud this temporary injunction and we encourage the courts to overrule President Trump’s executive order. Refugee resettlement benefits Texas, just as it benefits Iowa. Refugee resettlement benefits our culture and our economy.

We applaud Governor Reynolds, as well as leaders of Linn, Johnson, Black Hawk, Louisa, Polk, Dallas, and Warren counties for their consent and continued support of refugee resettlement here in Iowa. Such support exemplifies Iowa’s commitment to being a welcoming state and upholding the best of ideals of what it means to be American.

Q & A with Sarah Blakeney

We’re excited to welcome Sarah Blakeney, as the Employment Services Coordinator to the Catherine McAuley Center team! Get to know Sarah and the employment services CMC has to
offer!

Q: Sarah, tell us a bit about your background.

A: I am originally from Virginia and moved to Cedar Rapids right after Thanksgiving of last year (2018). Before that, I served in the Peace Corps in Morocco for two years. While there I was also working on my Master’s in Public Anthropology, conducting research on experiences accessing healthcare in several small towns and villages in the southeastern part of the country. My service also included doing pretty much whatever my community needed help with, including English clubs and classes and job readiness.

Q: What was it that drew you to this position at CMC? Why help with employment?

A: I was drawn to CMC because I knew I wanted to work with a non-profit. I had taken a class about the refugee experience and conducted a needs-based analysis with Nepali Bhutanese refugees during undergrad, so being able to serve that population was a big draw. I believe employment is such an important part of becoming self-sufficient and can give people a sense of freedom as well as inclusion into a new society and culture.

Q: How do you go about supporting refugees and immigrants in their employment goals?

A: My job involves everything from meeting with employers to teaching clients what the
American workforce looks like. I meet one-on-one with clients to talk about what their
employment goals are, create an email address and resume, and identify job opportunities that fit their needs. I also work with clients enrolled in the Matching Grant program, which serves refugees who have arrived within the past 30 days with extra employment support in order for them to reach self-sufficiency by 120-180 days after their arrival. Additionally, I hold Job Club every Friday, which is a 5-week program that discusses many different aspects of the American workforce. I meet with employers’ HR or recruiting teams to get a better understanding of their hiring needs and ways we can support them and overcome any barriers that might prevent our clients from being able to successfully work there.

Q: What are some highlights from your interactions with employers so far? What other types of employers would you like to work with?

A: So far, I have really enjoyed working with Kirkwood Community College, The Hotel at
Kirkwood, and Raining Rose. These and other employers have been very open and welcoming to our clients and motivated to find ways to break down employment barriers. I am open to developing and strengthening relationships with area employers but finding organizations in Iowa City and Waterloo in order to better serve the clients we resettle there is at the top of my list.

Q: What benefits do refugees and immigrants bring to the table as employees?

A: Refugees and immigrants are resilient and motivated to provide for their families. If they were living in refugee camps, they might not have had the opportunity to work and support themselves and overall, they just want to become self-reliant. Most of our clients also speak multiple languages and are able to find ways to communicate and problem solve cross-culturally. They have had to adapt to a whole new culture and that experience can help them be successful in any work environment.

 

New: Refugee Child Care Program!

Twenty-three percent of all residents in Iowa live in a “child care desert” where there are three times as many children as there are open child care spots according to the Center for American Progress. This lack of child care can result in financial and personal instability as family members forgo employment to take care of their children or send their children to unlicensed child care facilities.

This has a particularly heavy impact on refugee and immigrant communities. Many child care facilities lack the appropriate cultural or linguistic training to provide comfort and understanding to parents of different backgrounds. making child care options for these families even fewer. CMC remains committed to ensuring we create an inclusive community where everyone has an equal opportunity to become independent and self-sufficient and is proud to be launching a new initiative to address the lack of child care and provide career opportunities for refugees, in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

CMC is working with local partners like Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral, HACAP’s PACES to Quality Program, and 4Cs to guide refugees and immigrants through the training and DHS approval process and establish their own in-home child care businesses. This program is modeled after a similar program organized by Lutheran Services of Iowa in Des Moines that has had great success.

Hannah Miles, Refugee Child Care Program Coordinator

Hannah Miles, Refugee Child Care Program Coordinator, was hired to direct the program thanks to a federal grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. CMC is one of eight organizations in the nation that was selected for this funding. As the coordinating agency, CMC strives to not only increase the amount of culturally and linguistically appropriate child care, but also to help participants become more financially stable and self-sufficient by providing potential career opportunities and more accessible child care.

 

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.

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!

World Refugee Day 2018- Reflection

By Caleb S. Gates, Case Manager & Advocacy Specialist

Burundian drummers performing on Iowa City’s Pentacrest in honor of World Refugee Day.

Home. A place to call your own. Our sense of place in this world greatly defines our identity. When we meet a new person, we quickly ask “Where are you from?” Our place of birth, our childhood home, our old stomping grounds leave an indelible mark on our psyches. It means something to identify as a Midwesterner.

Politicians running for office speak of their connection to place. They emphasize being born and raised in the district with family ties that go back X number of generations. Deep personal and family roots in one place display loyalty to that place. Even the Constitution illustrates this unspoken loyalty test. Anyone running for Congress has to reside in that district and be a citizen for at least 7 years. Prospective Senators have to reside in that state and be a citizen for at least 9 years. The President of the United States must be a natural-born citizen of the United States. Place of birth and long residence show loyalty cred. This unspoken loyalty belief helps explain why many claimed President Obama was not born in the United States. Questioning his birth questioned his loyalty. This is why draft dodgers during the Vietnam War who fled to Canada were painted as traitors. Fleeing the draft was seen as a dereliction of duty and displayed disloyalty to the nation.

This psychological phenomenon helps explain why many fear and reject the Refugee. No matter that the refugee fled their country because of persecution because of who they are or what they believed. No matter that the refugee feared for their lives and their family’s lives. A refugee who left their country must not be loyal to their country. How could a disloyal refugee ever be a loyal American citizen? This innate desire to divide people into loyalists and traitors remains as a relic of our species’ youth. Long before civilization sprung into being, discerning loyalists and traitors – who would defend the tribe and who would sell us out – was a matter of life and death. Now that civilization has bloomed and population size has expanded, such mechanisms can harm our ability to build a cohesive, diverse society and love our neighbor as ourselves.

All humans desire home, though at its core home is an idea, not a specific place. Yet even the nomad’s idea of home requires space, though they spend little time in one fixed location. For most, home requires stability only a geographic location – a plot of land, a roof overhead – can bring. Refugees are no different. A refugee has been denied the right to stay in their home country without fear of persecution. Denied by their homeland, they may wander for years in search of a place to call home.

Since 1980 over 3 million refugees now call the United States home. These refugees have immeasurably enriched our country, our state, and our local communities. Today, June 20, 2018, is the International Day of the Refugee.  We celebrate the refugees who have come to this country and remember the more than 22 million refugees who still wait for a place to call home. We should continue to welcome them to the United States – the land of the free, the home of the brave.

The Catherine McAuley Center has welcomed more than 140 refugees to Eastern Iowa since April 2017, and will welcome 44 additional newcomers over the next month! There are many ways you can create a welcoming community for these new neighbors: Volunteer, give, or host a supply drive for household items for newly-arrived families!

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.