Sunday, May 25, 2008

Immigration attorney: Expect more raids

DENISON -- An Ames-based immigration attorney told a crowd of nearly 100 Hispanics at the St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Denison that she expects more immigration raids to follow the historic one earlier this month in Postville -- and perhaps soon.

"It's difficult to predict the future but it's going to be a long summer," said JoAnn Barten.

Speaking at a forum sponsored by La Prensa, a western Iowa Spanish-language newspaper, Barten noted that both Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Barack Obama, Ill., and Hillary Clinton, N.Y., are likely to place moratoriums on the sort of raids that traumatized the Latin community in Postville, where Barten visited to assist those affected in days after the sweep.

"For this reason, expect more raids," Barten said.

Should some heavily Latino community communities in western Iowa prepare for similar raids by immigration officials?

"I think so, absolutely," Barten said. "I truly believe that (Postville) is not the only community they're going to hit."

In an interview with Iowa Independent Barten said the raids are largely political events.

"I think the raids are used for creating headlines and fear," she said.

She said the scene was a troubling one in the Posville Latin community.

"Almost every person I spoke to was crying," Barten said. "They were just exhibiting symptoms of psychological and emotional distress."

She warned Iowans against viewing the hateful messages on blogs and in newspaper Web sites as indicative of the state's view as a whole on immigration.

"I do believe that it is a vocal minority that is cheering the raids," Barten said. "I believe many people are ambivalent."

Back at the forum, Barten told those in attendance that they have the right to remain silent, that they don't have to move into a line of illegal or undocumented people in a raid if government officials ask for such a division.

"Many of the folks there (Postville) voluntarily gave the information against themselves to the government," Barten said. "You have the right not to tell them about yourselves."

(Note: Iowa Independent's Douglas Burns and La Prensa editor Lorena Lopez collaborated on a story on the Postville raid for La Prensa. It is published there in Spanish.)

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