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Simpson College Hosts Conversations About Immigration Issues In Des Moines

Kassidy Arena
The SUSI grant team is made up of Spanish professors Lau Cesarco Eglin and Molly Tun, along with research assistants Patricia Telthorst and Laura Meza.

Iowa is pretty far away from any U.S. border, but it's still affected by immigration. A college grant has helped spark the conversation about Latino immigrants in the state.

The virtual conversation about immigration in Des Moines was made possible by a grant for Simpson Meets the Spanish-Speaking Community of Des Moines (SUSI). Immigration was the first of three conversation topics planned by the Simpson College team as it looks at issues in Iowa’s Latino communities.

Speaker Ann Naffier briefly taught more than 40 participants the ins and outs of immigration Tuesday. The immigration lawyer for Justice for Our Neighbors said even if Iowans aren’t a lawyer or concerned about their citizenship status, it is a responsibility for all Iowans to understand the basics.

“I do think that how immigrants are treated is just a sign of how all of us are going to be treated. And I think it affects every one of us personally, eventually," Naffier said.

She said many immigrants in Iowa could face future deportation due to new immigration policies under the Trump administration. For example, immigrants who come to the U.S. from countries ravaged by war or a natural disaster may apply for Temporary Protection Status (TPS). TPS could face termination for immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras and other countries. Immigrants in the U.S. who came from countries that no longer apply for TPS could face deportation. TPS terms for these countries are currently under lawsuits.

Naffier said even though Iowa is not close to any borders, immigrants want to come to the state.

“I can’t tell you how many immigrants I’ve talked to who had terrible experiences in big cities in the United States and have come to Des Moines and said this is heaven," Naffier said. "I mean truly, just like field of dreams.”

According to the American Immigration Council, six percent of all Iowans are immigrants and five percent are born in the U.S. with immigrant parents. Most immigrants living in Iowa are from Mexico.

The next two virtual conversations will discuss Iowa’s overall Latino population and then Latino civic engagement.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines