Immigration forum will target ugly rhetoric

Immigration forum will target ugly rhetoric

Gazette Column
Young people with handmade signs and women wearing ankle tracking devices surrounded several members of Congress to relay their real-life horror stories. Congress did nothing. The women and young people were what was left following a massive 2008 immigration raid at a Postville meatpacking plant. They were destitute, relying on a local churches for food and other necessities. Husbands, fathers and brothers were either awaiting deportation, or had already been deported. Nearly all were also handed a criminal conviction, ensuring they would no longer have the option of entering the country legally. [caption id="attachment_1035" align="alignleft" width="300"] A marcher wears an ankle monitoring device during an immigration reform march through the streets of Postville on Sunday, July 27, 2008. The women fitted with the ankle devices wore them for roughly 19…
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Johnson County Community ID begins next week

Johnson County Community ID begins next week

Gazette Column
Rollout of the long anticipated Johnson County Community ID begins Friday, another Midwestern first courtesy of the People’s Republic. The cards, primarily offered for people who have difficulty accessing state-issued identification, have been used in some metropolitan areas for years. Johnson County will be the first in Iowa or the Midwest to give community IDs a try. Advocates — and I count myself among them — believe the cards offer an extra measure of dignity and security. All residents, even those with a state-issued ID card or driver’s license, can get a Johnson County Community ID. The cards can be used at participating businesses for discounts or other promotions. That said, they are most useful to members of the community who could be marginalized for one reason or another —…
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Deportee, son discuss separation on Father’s Day

Deportee, son discuss separation on Father’s Day

Gazette Column
Iowa City pastor was deported to Honduras in March The connection left a lot to be desired. But, actually, that was the point. Pastor Max Villatoro and his son, Anthony, reunited in a public setting this week to discuss their first Father’s Day apart. The Villatoro family has been separated since the man known simply as Pastor Max was arrested in Iowa City as part of a federal immigration sting and deported to Honduras in March. Father and son were brought together with the help of technology on Thursday as part of a webcast by advocacy group America’s Voice. In so many ways, it was a heartbreaking reunion to hear and watch. [caption id="attachment_1082" align="alignleft" width="300"] Pastor Max Villatoro, a former resident of Iowa City who was deported to Honduras…
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Max Villatoro closer to deportation

Max Villatoro closer to deportation

Gazette Column
An Iowa City pastor swept up in a federal initiative to arrest and expel migrant criminals from the country has been relocated to a detention facility in Louisiana, and is likely to be placed on plane later today and sent back to his birth country of Honduras. Max Villatoro, 41, was arrested by Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents on March 3. He and his wife, Gloria, founded Iglesia Torre Fuerte (First Mennonite Church) in Iowa City about five years ago. But, after entering the country illegally in 1995, the man known locally as Pastor Max had two skirmishes with the law — a drunk driving charge and aggravated misdemeanor related to the use of false documents to obtain a driver’s license in 1999. Villatoro completed probation and paid fines related…
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Max Villatoro not ‘worst of the worst’

Max Villatoro not ‘worst of the worst’

Gazette Column
Arrest of Iowa City pastor indicative of immigration enforcement woes If actions taken by the federal government are of any consequence, we should all be feeling a little more safe this week. As part of its ongoing “Operation Cross Check,” the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced the arrest of nearly 2,100 people with criminal records. The activity was part of a five-day nationwide initiative in which federal law enforcement agents targeted individuals with criminal records. “These are the worst of the worst criminals,” said Sarah Saldana, director of ICE. “These are not people we want in our neighborhoods.” ICE provided a list of four detained individuals as an example. A Jamaican living in Georgia was previously convicted on several charges including larceny and assault with a deadly weapon. A…
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Local opposition to ‘ineffective’ immigration program not enough

Local opposition to ‘ineffective’ immigration program not enough

Gazette Column
Iowans concerned about increased crime resulting from a decision by some law enforcement agencies not to honor federal immigration detention requests should take solace in new evidence that the local-federal partnership does little, if anything, to achieve its mission of lowered crime rates. From 2010 to 2012, each of Iowa’s 99 counties joined Secure Communities, a federal immigration program aimed at fighting crime by deporting individuals suspected of committing offenses. A new study, however, shows the program to be ineffective. Such findings may serve as the final blow against this particular embattled program, but are unlikely to stop newer federal initiatives that don’t rely on local cooperation and have fewer safeguards against racial profiling. Secure Communities “While [Secure Communities] was originally sold as a voluntary program, we all now know that’s not the…
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Helping kids is an obligation

Helping kids is an obligation

Gazette Column
I am not sure how people of faith, especially those who say their faith guides them in matters of public policy, are able to reconcile not first reacting with compassion to the plight of Central American children. While we may not like or appreciate how the children arrived on our doorstep, and even while we may debate federal immigration law and procedures, spiritual teachings are clear. We should care for and protect children. Pope Francis recently noted the mandate. “This humanitarian emergency requires, as a first urgent measure, these children be welcomed and protected,” he said as part of a message sent to a global conference in Mexico on July 15. Closer to home, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin voiced similar concerns during a Congressional hearing this week. “I have a…
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Bring back ‘Iowa nice’

Bring back ‘Iowa nice’

Gazette Column
Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba has drawn scrutiny and (to be blunt) nastiness for announcing organizations in the Quad Cities will help care for a few hundred of the roughly 52,000 Central American immigrant children currently detained in U.S. border states. The children — predominantly from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala — have arrived without adults and, due to law changes signed by President George W. Bush as part the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization of 2008, cannot be immediately deported. “You can’t turn your back on kids, little children and tell them they must go back to Honduras and in many cases be killed. That’s wrong,” said Gluba, who is hoping the community will help care for some of the children while their cases work their way through an overburdened…
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