MOUNT PLEASANT, Iowa --Over thirty were arrested on administrative immigration violations after a Mount Pleasant business was raided by ICE agents. Wednesday morning twenty-two men from Guatemala, seven from Mexico, two from Honduras and one from El Salvador were taken from inside Midwest Precast Concrete in Mount Pleasant in a criminal investigation involving US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. "Students were leaving class to see if their parents were there. There’s a lot of fear in the community," said Mt. Pleasant resident Tammy Shull.
Heath Brooks, a Mt. Pleasant High School student born in Guatemala before moving to America at an early age says even teachers were overcome with raw emotion. "I was in class and one of my teachers had a phone call about some of her students and she started crying.”
Despite the polarizing issue on immigration playing out within their own community, First Presbyterian Church Pastor Trey Hegar has opened his church to any children or family members impacted by the raid. "Something tragic has happened in their family. They didn’t bring it on themselves so we want to make sure they have a place to go, that they are taken care of.” It’s a plan implemented ted years ago after a larger but similar raid netted nearly four-hundred in Postville, Iowa back in May of 2008. Hegar said, "We talked to the schools some years ago and said if there is ever a raid like this we would be ready to receive folks and so we got some phone calls when we talked to the school superintendent.”
Hegar says many in the community are also questioning the methods they believe the Department of Homeland Security used to detain the men. "How the raid happened, it wasn’t that they went in knowing who was illegal and who wasn’t. They rounded up everybody," said Hegar.
Residents are fearful to walk in places they are lawfully allowed. "One lady who said 'I don’t want to go outside and go to the grocery store,' and not because she’s here illegally, it is because she’s Guatemalan."
The impact has even spread to local law enforcement that assisted in the process, "A police officer whose son plays baseball with one of the guys detained and he was just heartbroken because he was like oh no I know this guy.”
Church leaders believe taking in family members that have been impacted by the raid is not a political issue but a moral one. "Working to build up and unite and make bridges and in ways that’s sometimes pushing boundaries. This isn’t about being red or blue this is about being deeply purple," said Hegar.
While raid was swift, the impact could have long-lasting effects. Hegar said, "It shakes the fabric of the community. It’s really divisive as far as human relations go."
Department of Homeland Security Public Affairs Officer Sean Neudauer says the thirty-two men will remain in custody until the removal process is finalized or the outcomes of their respective cases are decided.