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Area leaders discuss impact of immigration raid on community

GTNS photo by David Hotle

Keynote speaker Rev. Alexia Salvatierra discuuses the current immigration situation and its impcat on people during the Manning Lecture Series at Iowa Wesleyan University.
GTNS photo by David Hotle Keynote speaker Rev. Alexia Salvatierra discuuses the current immigration situation and its impcat on people during the Manning Lecture Series at Iowa Wesleyan University.
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For the first time since Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested 32 men at Midwest Precast Concrete on May 9, 2018, a leadership group discussed the impact that immigration has on health care, business and education in Henry County before the genral public.

Speakers during a breakout session “Community Voices” in the Iowa Wesleyan University (IW) Manning Lecture Workshop discussed Sunday, April 7. Speakers from the school district, Henry County Health Center, Henry County Economic Development and The State of Iowa discussed the impact an immigration raid in May 2018 had on the community and the response from community leaders.

“Serving immigrant children is nothing new to our school district,” John Henriksen, Mt. Pleasant Community School District Superintendent said. “When I first came to Mt. Pleasant in 1996, at that time we had the first wave of Laotian and Vietnamese students who were coming to the area for various reasons. We just serve kids, whoever they are and wherever they are from. It’s what we do.”

He explained after the raid, the administrative team had determined a course of action. The district opted to try to make things as normal as possible after the raid. Members of the audience in the IW auditorium recall Henriksen meeting with families that had been impacted by the raid and discussing with them how the district could help them moving forward.

Henriksen also noted kids, even if undocumented, have a right to education in this country and, in fact, if they are under 16 are required by law to attend school. He said it isn’t legal to deny someone education. Henriksen also commented on the district’s policy regarding how to respond if agents from the Immigration and Customs Emforcement (ICE) agency showed up at a school. He said the school is required to not allow a major disruption during the school day and steps would be taken to make sure that didn’t happen. He also commented the district didn’t turn student records over to ICE without a court order.

An argument has been made that undocumented immigrants may cause additional expense for hospitals, and especially emergency rooms. Michelle Rosell, chief operations officer for the Henry County Health Center (HCHC), said lack of documentation is a challenge for any health center. She also said HCHC only gets about a dozen patients like that per year.

“The state of Iowa does offer a program called the 72-hour program in which undocumented individuals in an emergency can come to the emergency room and be treated,” she said.

She said the problem seems to come when family members are asked to complete the application process. She said if the family doesn’t follow up with the second part of the application, the program couldn’t be used.

Iowa Chamber Alliance executive director John Stineman said the state is working with many chambers of commerce to pave the way for immigrants to come to Iowa communities. He said the hope is that “within my lifetime” to see immigration reform. The last immigration reform law was passed in 1996 and the one before that in 1985.

Kristi Ray, the executive vice president for the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance, said there are over 300 jobs in the area that are unfilled. She said it would benefit business greatly if immigration laws could be reformed and businesses could hire the people needed for the positions.

The lecture program began with the Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, a Lutheran pastor with over 35 years of experience in advocacy and immigration work, discussing the current problems facing immigrants as well as the problems with the United States Immigration system.