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Community strength can grow as challenging times persist

Everyone knows the saying “the rising tide lifts all boats.” When the sun is shining, the weather is clear, and the breezes are blowing, all of us benefit. But the same can’t be said of stormy weather. Sometimes, when a storm is raging, some of us are anchored in safe harbors, while others are left adrift. Not every boat can weather the storm alone, and when they need help, no one hesitates to send out a lifeline.

A community is the same: When times are good, they are good for everyone. But when they are bad, they are much worse for the most vulnerable among us. And today all of us face a perfect storm in the form of the coronavirus pandemic ravaging our country.

In Marshall County, we have been a hot spot for coronavirus activity. However, we have been lucky enough to not have been impacted by the virus to the same degree as other communities around the country. But that doesn’t mean that all our residents are anchored in safe harbors.

In addition to our seniors, our children and people struggling financially, one of our most vulnerable groups of residents are the immigrants and refugees who have chosen to call Marshalltown home.

I am proud of our town’s history in being a welcoming home for refugees from places like Myanmar. Moreover, today, nearly a quarter of homes in Marshalltown speak a language other than English at home. Marshalltown gave all of them a platform to regain their dignity and contribute to our community in so many diverse ways, and they have done so at every opportunity — including during these difficult times.

In fact, just last month, several of the workers at the JBS pork processing plant in Marshalltown, many of whom are immigrants, tested positive for the virus. All of us can applaud JBS for their quick response to the needs of their employees during an unprecedented medical crisis. Similarly, I deeply admire the work ethic of JBS’ employees who continue to come to work every day. These workers have stepped up to the plate, at great personal risk, to support their families, our community and to make sure that our nation’s food supply is not disrupted.

The same applies to our grocery workers, our sanitation workers, our janitors and cleaning staff, our truckers, our first responders and our healthcare heroes. New immigrants, naturalized citizens, refugees and people like them across our community are sending all of us a lifeline.

And it’s time we did the same for them. First, we have to remember that immigrants have been part and parcel of our community for decades, and their role is more important than ever in keeping us healthy, fed, clean and secure.

Second, we must resist the urge to think along the lines of “us vs them.” In fact, it is more important than ever we remember that, because during challenging times, it is easy to forget. It is easy to think of immigrants as “the other,” a scapegoat to blame for what is happening around us.

Along the same lines, we need to be unequivocally clear that the safety of all of our residents is paramount, and that law enforcement is here to serve and protect the entire community. That is why no immigrant, regardless of status, should fear approaching or seeking the help of local law enforcement in our city.  

Third, because these communities are so vulnerable, while also so central to our fight against COVID-19, they must be considered part of any relief effort, whether by the state or by our federal governments. We have already seen that this is not charity, but a reflection of their essential roles in sectors that are the lifeblood of Marshalltown and Iowa.

Finally, we must remember the good in ourselves. This pandemic reminds us of what matters: that all human beings carry an inherent dignity; that all human life is precious; and that we all need one another. We are all in this together. All of us, regardless of where we come from and what our background might be. We need each other and we will continue to support each other because we are Marshalltown Strong and this is just what we do.

I have no doubt, knowing Marshalltown and its residents like I do, that we will show everyone in our community that we are not just fair-weathered friends who enjoy the rising tide. Let us show them that we are going to ride this storm out together, all of us. That Marshalltown is not just in the heart of America, but also its welcoming, loving heart. Let us live up to the spirit of our ideals, the spirit of our community, our state and the spirit of America.

——

Mike Tupper is the Chief of Police

for the Marshalltown Police Department

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