One year ago this week, immigration officials detained 32 workers at a concrete plant in Mount Pleasant. Twelve months later, most of the men’s legal cases are still pending. Eight of the men have deported, and the rest have been released on bond and are back living with their families in Mount Pleasant. While a handful have received work permits, most can’t work, and are still waiting for immigration hearings.
The lives of the men and their families have been deeply changed, some deported and sent back to countries where they say they face threats of violence, others struggling to readjust to their new life, waiting for final legal determinations.
Many of the workers were the primary breadwinners in their families, many raising their own children or sending earnings to extended family in Central America. Without their salaries, their families are scrambling to pay the bills.
But in the year since, in some ways families in Mount Pleasant have become closer, bringing together Latinos and white residents in some new ways.
The Sunday before the one year mark of the raid, dozens of worshipers gathered in the St. Alphonsus Catholic Church for a bilingual prayer service. They sang and prayed, in Spanish and English, saying prayers for those who are oppressed, families who are separated, and for politicians to implement “just” immigration policies.
Bishop Thomas Zinkula of the Davenport Diocese helped lead the service.
“Many people in and outside of this community, look into the eyes of the 32 men who were detained after the ICE raid at the concrete plant a year ago, and also into the eyes of their family members, they saw brothers and sisters,” Zinkula said.
One of the people gathered in the hall was a woman named Julieta, the spouse of one of the workers who was detained. Her name is being withheld to protect her privacy.
Julieta says she and her husband are struggling to pay the bills as they raise their two kids. With the help of her extended family, many of whom live in Mount Pleasant, she says they’re getting by. Julieta says her family left her native Mexico to earn a living and to escape gang violence. It’s been a struggle for her husband not to work.
“We try to work hard, because we have family, we have kids. We want the better life for the kids, you know? It’s the same like for American people, want the same for their family. We obviously want the same,” she said.
It’s been difficult for her and her husband to explain to their kids the legal limbo their father is in. They’re ages four and seven.
“When we need to talk about, ‘your dad need to go to the court’ or something like that. Obviously, they probably they don’t understand clear…what happened. But probably the older, he understand a little bit more,” she said. “And he always said, ‘I want my dad close to me’.”
With backlogs in immigration courts across the country, it could be months or up to about two years before the workers’ cases are resolved.