Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

ICE arrests 32 in Mt. Pleasant raid

Community rallies behind affected families
May 10, 2018
Photo by: Grace King An Iowa State Patrol Officer blocks the entrance to MPC Enterprises around noon Wednesday, May 9. Earlier in the day, ICE raided the concrete manufacturer, taking a bus load of people off the premises.

Wednesday morning’s arrest of 32 men at MPC Enterprises for alleged administrative immigration violations left families and the community shocked that something like this could happen in small town Mt. Pleasant.

Federal and local law enforcement officials arrested the men on what they described as administration immigration violations during the raid early May 9.

Agents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations and deportation officers with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) executed the search warrant and conducted the enforcement operation as part of an ongoing criminal investigation, according to ICE officials. The nature of the investigation was not disclosed.

The men taken into custody were loaded into vans and removed from the plant during the raid.

“We’ve talked about this day happening, hoping it never would,” said Dina Saunders, Mt. Pleasant chapter co-president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC). “We hope everyone’s rights are respected,” she said, adding that includes interpreters being provided for the men who were transported to the Linn County Correctional Center in Cedar Rapids.

A dozen onlookers were gathered outside the fence following the raid at MPC Enterprises, awaiting word from family and friends.

“We just want to know what happened to all the people,” one viewer said.
Others said they came to sit on the side of the road and wait to hear word because it’s the best they can do right now.

Still another questioned what will happen to the children of some of the people raided by ICE.

“A lot of families with kids will be separated. Now they won’t have their parents by their side,” an onlooker said.

Shawn Neudauer, regional public affairs officer for ICE, said in a news release there was no threat to the public and no further information was being released.

The 32 men included one from Honduras, two from El Salvador, 22 from Guatemala and seven from Mexico, officials said. These men will remain in custody pending removal proceedings or the outcomes of their respective cases.

After a day filled with more questions than answers, families affected by the raid and community members seeking ways to alleviate the trauma gathered at First Presbyterian Church in Mt. Pleasant that evening.

After Mt. Pleasant Community School District Superintendent John Henriksen was alerted of the raid, he immediately reached out to First Presbyterian Church, which was designated as a safe place a few years ago specifically for situations such as this. The task force is led by Iowa WINS (Iowa Welcomes Immigrant Neighbors), an organization established in 2015 in Mt. Pleasant in response to the global refugee crisis.

Henriksen assured families that children six to 18 years old maintain the right to attend school regardless of immigration status. “School is a safe place for kids,” Henriksen said. “That’s what the law requires. As traumatic as an experience this is, that’s all we can do … provide a sense of normalcy.”

While none of the 20 children in the Mt. Pleasant schools affected were left needing a place to go after school Wednesday, community members sprung to take the next steps. An impromptu meeting was held as families affected by the raid sought to connect with immigration lawyers and the people asked what other types of support they need during this turbulent time.

Over 100 people rallied together Wednesday night, led by Erica Johnson, director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Iowa Immigration Rights Program. In the meeting, families affected by the raid expressed their uncertainty in how to proceed.

“It’s pretty personal. It’s a small town,” said First Presbyterian pastor Trey Hegar. “This was a roundup. They took everyone. People are going to lose money, lose their support (systems). These families can come here, meet here, it’s a safe place to gather.”

The needs of families identified in the discussion included cash to replace lost income of detained breadwinners, infant supplies, legal aid, transportation and counseling. While more than 50 members of immigrant families affected met with volunteers to fill out intake forms developed by AFSC after ICE raids in Postville and Marshalltown, community members divided into action teams mobilize support.

Even Rep. Dave Heaton (R-Mt. Pleasant) ventured to the church in the early evening hours Wednesday to voice his concern. “It comes as a total shock. This is a peaceful community. People were working and out of the blue there were flashing lights and helicopters.”

“Right now, I do not have money for a lawyer,” a tearful young Hispanic wife told the group. “My husband, he was the one who provided.”

“We are not takers. We are hard workers. We are here to provide a safe place for our children,” said another young mother.

Local members of LULAC have also been busy voicing their concern over the raid and directing the community in how to support area Latin American families. LULAC member Andrew Bribiesco even went so far as to say that the raid was an attack by the federal administration and President Donald Trump on small towns.

“This is going to have lasting effects,” Bribiesco said.

As families continue to seek answers, LULAC leaders ask for prayer.

“I’d really like all … Christian and non-Christian people to pray for us,” LULAC member Ronald Carrillo said. “These families, not only in Mt. Pleasant, but all over the country, this affects (them). Ask God why he made the different skin colors, different languages, different cultures. He made us equal … We are made in his hands.”

A fund has been established by Iowa WINS at the First Presbyterian Church for donations to help the affected families. Checks can be made payable to the First Presbyterian Church with Iowa WINS on the memo line.

Sonia Reyes-Snyder, with the Iowa Department of Human Rights, will be speaking at First Presbyterian Church Thursday, May 10 at 1 p.m. Everyone is invited to ask questions and share their concerns.

A vigil is being held Thursday, May 10 at 5 p.m. on the Henry County Courthouse lawn. Everyone with compassion for families of immigrants is invited to attend.

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