refugees

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The families of three workers who died after contracting the coronavirus in a Tyson meatpacking plant in Waterloo are suing the company. In a lawsuit filed Thursday in Black Hawk County, the families allege fraudulent misrepresentation, gross negligence and wanton disregard for worker safety.

In this file photo, a worker at a meat processing plant stands side by side other workers.
Courtesy of Oxfam America / file

Meatpacking plants continue to be a driving factor in coronavirus outbreaks across rural America. In Iowa, refugees from Myanmar are among the hardest-hit, as nearly the entire community works in the plants. Many feel they don’t have options, other than to work in facilities where social distancing is extremely difficult.

In this file photo, a worker at a meat processing plant stands side by side other workers.
Courtesy of Oxfam America / file

Black Hawk County officials say more than a thousand employees of the Tyson plant in Waterloo have tested positive for the coronavirus. That’s more than double the total that state officials reported earlier this week. The announcement comes the same day the company resumed limited operations at its pork plant in Waterloo, which was idled for two weeks following public outcry.

Grant Gerlock / IPR file

The Black Hawk County Board of Health is formally calling for the temporary closure of the Tyson meat processing plant in Waterloo. Local public health officials say an outbreak at the facility has led to soaring increases in cases of the new coronavirus. At an emergency meeting Tuesday, board members approved a resolution, saying that current conditions “will exacerbate — rapidly — the infection of its employees, their households, and the communities in which they reside." The board is urging the company and Gov. Kim Reynolds to take action to protect Tyson workers.

In this file photo, a worker at a meat processing plant stands side by side other workers.
Courtesy of Oxfam America / file

For years, refugees who have survived political persecution, hunger and war in Latin America, Southeast Asia and East and Central Africa have come to Iowa to build a new life. After raising their children in camps, some have been able to buy homes and climb their way into the American middle class, a college education for their kids no longer an unthinkable fantasy. For many, this became possible because of the steady work and the higher than minimum wages at the state’s meat processing plants and manufacturing facilities. Now some of those places are becoming hotspots of COVID-19, as the highly contagious virus tears through production lines where advocates say stringent social distancing is not possible.

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Refugee and immigrant-led organizations in Iowa are banding together to provide information on COVID-19 in ten different languages. The resources include public health information and advice on how to cope with our new reality in the age of coronavirus.

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Advocates who work with the state’s refugee and immigrant population say the group has faced some additional challenges as more COVID-19 cases are confirmed in the state.

Rebecca Blackwell / AP Photo

On this edition of River to River host Ben Kieffer speaks with Reynaldo Leanos Jr., a border and immigration reporter with Texas Public Radio, about the crisis at the border.

Also joining the conversation are Sue Otto, Sally Hartman and Deb Schoelerman. The three Iowa women describe their visit to a tent city in Matamoros, Mexico. The city is located just over border from Brownsville, Texas. Together they detailed the harsh living conditions many refugees have had to endure.

Charity Nebbe/IPR

This program originally aired on 9-27-19

All this week, Talk of Iowa has explored the question “Iowa: Is this home?” On the final episode of this Iowa Week series, six stories of finding, or perhaps not finding, home from Iowans originally from other parts of the country and the globe.

John Pemble / IPR file

Gov. Kim Reynolds has agreed to keep resettling refugees in the state, while also questioning the security record of the program, without evidence. Under a Trump administration executive order, states and counties have to give formal consent for the federal government to resettle refugees in their area, a move that some supporters say gives local officials a greater say in the process.

Amy Mayer / IPR

On a side street near the Des Moines Water Works, a tall fence surrounds three garden plots. Geese fly overhead while trucks drive past a sign between the road and the fence. It says: “Industrial Development Land For Sale, Contact City of Des Moines.”

Until recently, the city rented the land for growing vegetables, but now it’s been rezoned and put up for sale.

Natalie Krebs / IPR

Figuring out America's health care system can be hard for anyone. It can be especially challenging for refugees, who often face significant language and cultural barriers. But one group is trying to bridge that gap by training refugees as health navigators in their own communities.

Kate Payne/IPR

Much of Iowa's slow but steady growth can be attributed to international immigration. While many native-born Iowans are leaving the state, some refugee communities are seeking it out. In many cases, they're deciding on a life in Iowa after initially settling in another state.  

Like many of the refugees who have resettled in Greeley, Colorado, 35-year-old Abul Basar is employed by JBS.

It’s a massive meatpacking plant that processes thousands of cattle per day and employs over 3,000 people. After a year of working on the plant’s processing line, where he disembowel cow carcasses with a large electric knife, Basar injured his right hand.

Kate Payne / IPR

A mother and son from Honduras have found shelter in Iowa after traveling with thousands of migrants from Central America. The family arrived in Iowa City on Christmas Day, after fleeing gang violence in their home of Choloma, Honduras.

Manhhai/flickr

As Iowans observe the death this week of former Gov. Robert Ray, some friends and associates are recalling the struggles behind his work bringing southeast Asian refugees to Iowa back in the 1970’s.  

Thousands of refugees were brought to the state starting in 1975, and again later in the decade.   Many were fleeing political repression.

“It was not without controversy for sure,” said former Chief of Staff David Oman.  “There were many people who couldn’t figure out why we would have to do this, why should we do this.”

Daniel Moon

Representatives of Iowa’s Asian community will play a special role on Thursday in observances honoring former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray, who passed away this week at the age of 89.       

A motorcade will transport Ray’s body through Des Moines and to the Capitol where he will lie in state in the rotunda.  

Members of the Asian community will lay one of the wreaths on the coffin and lead the procession of Iowans paying their respects.

Ray oversaw the resettlement of thousands of southeast Asian refugees in Iowa in the 70’s.

The first seven years of Dekow Sagar’s life in Somalia were happy. Rural Somalia was beautiful, he had plenty of brothers, sisters and friends to play with, and the family farm provided what they needed. However, Sagar’s pleasant rural life was shattered by terrible violence and civil war.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Actors huddle around microphones as foley artists create sound effects with musicians. They are performing a scene about a teenager running away from gunfire in Burundi. This is Pang!, a three-act play presented as radio theater on a stage at CSPS Hall in Cedar Rapids.

refugees
Steve Evans/Wikimedia Commons

The Trump administration is planning to admit 45,000 refugees this fiscal year—the lowest cap in the history of the nation's refugee program that started in 1980. Iowa’s refugee resettlement agencies are expecting fewer arrivals and facing more uncertainty than in past years. 

manhhai

After the US withdrew from the Vietnam War, its Indochinese allies were left facing torture, death, and imprisonment from the ruling communist regime. The Tai Dam, an ethnic group from northern Vietnam, petitioned the U.S. for sanctuary.

In 1975, Iowa Governor Robert Ray created an agency to relocate the group. During this hour of River to River host Ben Kieffer talks with Matthew Walsh, a professor of history at Des Moines Area Community College about his new book The Good Governor: Robert Ray and the Indochinese Refugees of Iowa.

Iowans Helping Syrians

Jun 20, 2017
Photo submitted

Ethan and Bethany Anderson of West Liberty recently returned from spending time in Mafraq, Jordan.  The trip was to assist refugees that had relocated from Syria.  On this World Refugee Day, Talk of Iowa host Charity Nebbe talks with Bethany and Ethan about how the trip went, what they saw, and what the condition are like for refugees there.

On the trip, Ethan and Bethany were joined by local staff and volunteers of the Alliance Church.

Harvard Square Press

This hour, we hear about the life of Michael Majok Kuch, a featured "Lost Boy of Sudan" from the PBS documentary "Dinka Diaries," as described in the poet Harriet Levin Millan's first novel "How Fast Can You Run." (Harvard Square Press). 

refugees
Steve Evans/Wikimedia Commons

Refugee resettlement groups in Iowa are trying to determine how the new version of President Donald Trump’s travel ban will affect their clients.

The new travel ban maintains the 50 percent cut in total refugee arrivals to the U.S. this year, and that cut is reflected in refugee resettlement efforts in Iowa.

hooverlegacy.be

Before the United States entered World War I, Herbert Hoover, then a private citizen, organized  he Commission for Relief in Belgium to feed seven million in need.  This was the largest food relief effort up that time in history.  To discuss this massive humanitarian effort, Charity speaks with Matthew Schaefer, archivist at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch.

Wikimedia Commons

At 7:00 p.m. Central Standard Time, President Donald Trump will announce his nominee to fill the vacant seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, which has remained unfilled since Justice Antonin Scalia died last year. During this River to River interview, host Ben Kieffer talks with Todd Pettys, a professor at the University of Iowa Law School, about possible nominees. 

refugees
Steve Evans/Wikimedia Commons

Around 1,000 refugees resettled in Iowa in 2016. Most of them arrive in the state with nothing to their name and have three months of support to learn a new language, get a job and find a place to live. During this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with representatives from organizations that help refugees get settled and work with them after other services to help them expire. 

Global Greens, a project of Lutheran Services in Iowa, is helping refugees find land to farm, and is helping people to learn the business of farming. 

refugees
Steve Evans/Wikimedia Commons

Nearly 1000 refugees have been resettled in Iowa this year.

Director of Admissions for the U.S. State Department Larry Bartlett says while these new Iowans come from all over the world, the one thing they have in common is that they were forced to leave their homes.

Remi Itani / International Organization for Migration / Flickr

More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015, fleeing war, poverty, and ecological disaster. The influx has sparked a crisis, as European counties struggle to cope with the human flood. It's also creating division in the European Union over how best to deal with resettling people. 

Photo Courtesy Daniel Moon

Twenty years ago in Iowa, the influx of latino workers and their families was a large topic of conversation. Today, refugee programs are working with more than 180 different languages and are helping migrants from all over the world navigate culture in Iowa, and starting to include ideas of sexual identity and socio-economic status in the conversation.

During this hour of River to River, we hear from Henny Ohr, Executive Director of the Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center, about the influx of refugees from Burma who have been relocating to Iowa.

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