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Iowa's Immigrants Recognized For Individual Contributions

Justice For Our Neighbors
Guardado said she expects the immigrant population in Iowa will grow after President-elect Joe Biden takes office and this project will encourage a more supportive community.

A refugee and immigrant advocacy organization has launched a project to highlight how immigrants contribute to Iowa. They planned for this to happen just before a new administration takes office in Washington.

Individual immigrants and refugees in Iowa are sharing their stories to help encourage acceptance and understanding among the rest of the state population. Amy Guardado, the director of development for Justice For Our Neighbors, started the initiative. She said the stories cover a wide range of experiences. Some are success stories of how immigrants have found their place here in the United States, but others have sad endings or are unresolved.

"We wanted to express the reality of immigration in Iowa," Guardado said. "We tried to choose a kind of a cross section of what our clients experience. And hopefully that's expressed in these stories."

Guardado said she wanted the stories available to the public in advance of a Biden presidency which, she said, could change Iowa’s demographic makeup.

“We understood that there's going to be a chance for some real likely growth for the refugee and immigration population once Joe Biden takes over," Guardado said.

In 2016, 2 percent of the state's population were not U.S. citizens. President-elect Joe Biden has said he intends to "modernize America's immigration system."

Guardado said she wants this initiative to show Iowans how much immigrants and refugees contribute not only to the economy of the state, but also to the cultural richness. She said she wants this to have an emotional impact and a political one.

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently hearing a case from the Trump administration, which is arguing non-citizens should not be counted in the census. Guardado said she hopes this initiative will help educate Iowans about how important it is to count immigrants and their contributions.

“We thought this was a great time and a great opportunity to highlight these stories, and to bring the possibility of better understanding," Guardado said. "They're contributing not only to taxes, but also so many different ways that affect us on a daily basis. And they should absolutely be included and counted in every way possible."

To protect the identities of some of the individuals featured in the campaign, Guardado has changed their names. The stories are posted on the organization's Facebook page. Guardado said she has received enough positive feedback to inspire her to look into making this a future project as well, both from those featured and those who have read the stories.

There will be one story every day until Dec. 25. Guardado encourages every Iowan with questions about immigration or the immigrant community to reach out and not be afraid to ask.

Kassidy was a reporter based in Des Moines