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Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

Iowa WINS asking for more donations to assist families affected by immigration arrests

Men released on bond are unable to work until status is determined
By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News | Aug 27, 2018

Iowa Welcomes its Immigrant Neighbors is running out of money to assist families of men arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in May.

Since the raid on May 9 when 32 immigrants were arrested from their place of employment at MPC Enterprises, Iowa WINS, at First Presbyterian Church, has become a place of refuge for the families. Throughout the summer, the church has stocked a food pantry and even opened a media lab where both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking families can learn English and Spanish respectfully through Rosetta Stone, while assisting families as they navigate a sea of lawyers and court dates.

Four and a half months later, donations to Iowa WINS are slowing. The financial burdens facing the immigrant families are not, however. “We need to ask for more funds because for some of these families it’s going to take years to rebalance their income,” said First Presbyterian Church pastor Trey Hegar.

While 24 of the men, who were released on bond, wait for their immigration hearing, they cannot be granted a work permit. A lot of the men received $10,000 bond through the Eastern Iowa Community Bond Project, and attorneys were able to get them granted a bond redetermination. As the men’s ties were shown to the community through letters of support and tax statements, some bonds were also lowered from $10,000.

Although Hegar said he has spoken to “governmental contacts” such as Chuck Grassley about speeding up the process of acquiring work permits for immigrants, legislation takes time.

“There’s work in progress,” Hegar said. “It’s going to take years because it’s such a controversial thing. It’s a common sense thing, but the topic is so divisive.”

According to Hegar, families from the Postville immigration raid, that arrested nearly 400 people 10 years ago, spent five years trying to bounce back economically.

As families work through the legal process of determining their immigration status, they still have months of bills to pay.

“All of these men were taken at work,” said president of Iowa WINS Tammy Shull. “They’re not used to being in a situation where they have to ask for money. But they do have to live, keep a roof over their heads and stay warm and fed.”

Iowa WINS will be hosting an auction at First Presbyterian Church in October to continue to raise money for the families, asking for donations for the event as well as attendance from the community.

The nonprofit is also selling Iowa WINS pins for $2 apiece and applying for grants to meet their financial needs.

Shull said until the men’s immigration status is determined by a judge, Iowa WINS needs to support them. “All of these cases are individual,” she said. “None of us really know the status of these men. Everyone deserves that opportunity to have their case heard.”

Even so, some families have opted to move back to their home countries, finding it difficult to stay in the U.S. Another family is staying while the individual arrested and released on bond decided to move back to Mexico.

“(They said) we’ll just have to go and see each other when we can,” Hegar said. “The person who’s been deported can’t come back. This family is saying, since they have citizenship, they’ll just go down (to Mexico), see them, and come back.

Others are married to U.S. citizens or were working toward citizenship and had paperwork fall through on the administration side, Hegar said. Still others are seeking asylum. Many of the children are U.S. citizens.

Hegar’s outspoken support for the men and families arrested by ICE doesn’t cloud his knowledge of members of his church who feel a little uncomfortable. “I can at least understand and listen to and sympathize in some way with their feeling and why,” he said.

That hasn’t slowed down the growth of the church, however. Hegar said many new members — including some of the Hispanic families — will be joining. “We are growing because people see us following the biblical mandate to do unto others as we would want done unto us,” he said.

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