‘Keeping ICE out of Iowa’ draws dozens to Marshalltown

Group discusses strategy with immigration officials

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS -Priscila Martínez of the Texas-based Workers Defense Action Fund spoke at Tuesday’s “Keeping ICE Out of Marshalltown” event at the Midnight Ballroom. She discussed how undocumented people can prepare for a visit by ICE agents and what rights they have in such a situation.

An event focused on dealings with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other law enforcement officers took place in Marshalltown Tuesday amid national conversation on immigration policy.

The “Keeping ICE Out of Iowa” event drew dozens from around the state to the Midnight Ballroom. Immigration activists shared information on how undocumented immigrants can plan for a visit from ICE. State immigration laws were also discussed.

“Do not incriminate yourself,” said Priscila Martínez of the Texas-based Workers Defense Action Fund. “We have to teach our undocumented brothers and sisters to say ‘I choose to remain silent.'”

That was one tip she gave during a “Know Your Rights” practice. Another was to give identification information that includes name, date of birth and address if asked by a law enforcement officer, but not to share country of origin or immigration status.

Additionally, Martínez said undocumented immigrants should not open the door for ICE agents if they come knocking.

“What ICE does is they hide in plain clothes … they watch you, they watch your family coming in for a couple days,” she said.

Martínez said ICE agents may try to justify entering by saying they have a warrant and cautioned about what that may mean.

“ICE makes their own warrants, they don’t mean anything … it has to be signed by a judge,” she said. “If they have one signed by a judge, they can just knock the door down.”

Martínez said undocumented people and their family members should not open the door in such a scenario. If ICE does arrest a family member, she said to “make sure that you have a plan so that you know how to contact your family members.”

Martínez also went over a new Texas state law called SB 4, which she compared to the recently-passed Iowa SF 481 law meant to stop so-called sanctuary cities from appearing in the state.

The Iowa law goes into effect on July 1 and will ensure local law enforcement entities fully cooperate with federal immigration enforcement if requested. It also offers protections from arrest for undocumented witnesses or victims of crimes.

Fair Immigration Reform Movement Midwest Coordinator Salvador Cervantes also spoke Tuesday. He said he wants to “stop the brutality that is happening … to our immigrant communities under this (presidential) administration.”

He said the key is to organize and get citizens to vote out politicians who support what he said were “cruel” immigration laws and policies. One example he gave was the President Donald Trump administration’s policy of separating undocumented children from their families at the border.

“The things that are happening at the border, they’re not human,” he said.

Maria González of Immigrant Allies of Marshalltown said she thought the information sessions were helpful.

“In previous meetings that we’ve had, we’ve talked about preparing yourself and having a plan, talking with your family … in case you’re stopped or in case ICE does come to your house,” she said. “The points that (Martínez) is sharing, even though it’s in Texas, it’s still what we are asking people in our community to do.”

González said a local group called the Community Coalition works to help with such planning and is there in case a local undocumented person is deported and their family needs support.

“Right now, our biggest issue is with rumors,” she said. “We are trying to figure out the best way to get actual information out to the community — I think the most important thing is educating yourself over your rights.”

Members of the audience shared where they had traveled from for Tuesday’s event, including Iowa City, Newton, Omaha and more.

“I feel like a lot of people are coming here to make a better life,” said audience member Chris Ramann, who drove from his home in Ames for the event. “I just want to see that people are treated humanely.”

An ICE raid saw 32 people arrested in the southeastern Iowa community of Mount Pleasant last month. A similar raid took place in Marshalltown in 2006.


Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com