ICE detainees from Mt. Pleasant appear in Davenport

By Alma Gaul, Quad-City Times


DAVENPORT ? As her father sat shackled in a courtroom chair, 2-year-old Frida played with a gold-colored rosary, climbing over the lap of her mother, who was quietly weeping.

That was the scene Monday morning in Davenport?s U.S. District Court, as Ricardo Macias Saucedo, one of 32 men arrested May 9 during an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid in Mt. Pleasant, appeared before a judge to see if he could be released from custody pending resolution of his criminal case.

Saucedo is being held on a felony charge of illegally re-entering the United States in 2010 after court-ordered deportation in 2008, according to testimony Monday by Jonathan Kovach, deportation officer for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

At the close of the hearing, Judge Steven Jackson said he would take the matter under advisement, issuing a written order at a later date, so Saucedo will remain in jail for an undetermined length of time.

Five of those arrested in the raid, including Saucedo, have appeared in Davenport federal court ? on Friday and Monday ? because the charges against them are criminal not simply civil, explained Tammy Shull, chairperson of IowaWINS, a refugee assistance group based at First Presbyterian Church, Mt. Pleasant.

Civil cases were, or are, being heard in immigration court in Omaha, the Rev. Trey Hegar, the church?s pastor, said.

Saucedo?s attorney, Murray W. Bell, of Bettendorf, argued Saucedo should be released on his own recognizance. He is not a flight risk because even though he ?may eventually face separation, that doesn?t mean he?s going to abscond,? Bell argued.

?He wants to spend as much quality time with his family as he can,? he said.

In addition to Saucedo?s wife and two daughters in the courtroom, there were about a dozen people mobilized by the Catholic Diocese of Davenport, who want to show support of immigrants and want the courts to know they are watching, said Kent Ferris, director of social action for the diocese.

In 2017, Pope Francis launched a two-year campaign called ?Share the Journey? in which Catholics are encouraged to grow in solidarity with immigrants and refugees, Ferris explained.

?The focus in Iowa in the present moment means being in solidarity with immigrant families as they (deal with) the trauma that can come with our immigration enforcement practices,? Ferris said.

One case supporters are following closely is that of Elmer Ulizar, of Guatemala, who is the single parent and sole support of his 15-year-old son. Ulizar smuggled his son into the United States because the youth was being used as a drug mule in Guatemala, Hegar said.

Ulizar?s request for release also has been taken under advisement; his son, meanwhile, is staying with a longtime friend, Hegar said.

Shull, of IowaWINS, which stands for Iowa Welcomes Immigrant Neighbors, said some of those arrested are without any criminal record.

In Saucedo?s case, his wife, Yesica Reza, also has a job, so the family has some income. She works at a plastics company and describes herself as ?DACA,? one of the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who are living in the U.S. illegally after being brought here as children.

Under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the immigrants received temporary protection and work permits. President Donald Trump ended the program, pending new legislation, but a new deal has yet to be worked out.

Others arrested in Mt. Pleasant are the sole wage earners. IowaWINS is raising money to help families with rent and utilities and it operates a food pantry at the church.

Of the 32 arrested, one is from Honduras, two from El Salvador, 22 from Guatemala and seven from Mexico.

The number of immigrants living in the United States from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras rose by 25 percent from 2007 to 2015, according to the Pew Research Center, the Des Moines Register reported. Of the 3 million immigrants living in the U.S. from these countries, 55 percent were unauthorized as of 2015.

Hegar said he knew little about immigration proceedings until two months ago.

Now he has learned that with civil immigration violations, a person can be held 30 days without charges, without an attorney, without a trial. ?And even after 30 days, it doesn?t always happen,? he said.

People with no friends or family to advocate for them can languish indefinitely, he said.

Since Trump?s election, immigration agents are arresting more undocumented immigrants, including those without criminal records, according to a USA Today analysis of federal data, as reported by the Des Moines Register.

The number of employers being investigated is up, too.

One of the points made in Saucedo?s hearing on Monday is that he worked for MPC Enterprises both before his deportation in 2008 and after he came back into the country in 2010. The documents that he used to apply for employment ?were never recovered,? Kovach said.

Asked if MPC would have known of his status, Kovach replied that ?that is part of an ongoing criminal investigation.?

MPC Enterprises makes concrete beams, pillars, wall panels and stairs.