MT. PLEASANT, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- UPDATE: People gathered at First Presbyterian Church for a community forum and later at a candlelight vigil in front of the Henry County Courthouse. Many, while they are worried about the financial implications, say they’ll do whatever it takes to get their family back.
Federal agents raided Midwest Precast Concrete on Wednesday, May 9, 2018, taking 32 men into custody. Immigration & Customs Enforcement says the men are in the country illegally and came from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico. (Marlon Hall/KCRG-TV9)
One of those people was 15-year-old Oscar Lopez. His stepdad was one of the seven men, originally from Mexico, who Immigrations and Customs Enforcement arrested yesterday. Lopez said his stepdad has raised him since he was three-years-old.
“I think of him as the most hardworking man there is," said Lopez. "He just tried to get a roof over our head, food to us, everything to give us the best life there could be.”
Carolyn Avela now has six family members behind bars. Avela said they came here seeking asylum after multiple death threats. Now the family is scrambling to try to come up with the sixty thousand dollars in bond money, if they can even be granted bonds.
"We would appreciate it if those that can help us as a Latin American community we didn't come here to rob we're not criminals we hope there's a way out of this," said Avela.
Mount Pleasant Police Chief Ron Archer came to Thursday's community forum to answer the public's questions but noted people should still follow the law.
“If you use someone else’s identity, that’s a forgery that’s a felony that’s a crime," said Archer.
Lopez said, after his father's arrest, agents should focus on more important matters.
"If they're here undocumented, go after those people that are not working relying off of other people's documentation that they are stealing and stuff and just like really go after the 'bad people' just because of their race," said Lopez.
"Think about the values that we have as Iowans, that we want to keep families together and to help them deal with problems when they occur," said Iowa WINS Leader Tammy Shull. "I just encourage everybody to treat everyone as you would like to be treated."
The pastor of First Presbyterian church said between the 32 men, 24 kids are now left with fathers behind bars and one is orphaned but in family care.