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Local groups voice concern over border enforcement

BY REBECCA MORIN | FEBRUARY 08, 2013 5:00 AM

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An issue far from home has reached Iowans’ backyard.

No More Deaths, an Arizona-based organization whose mission is to end death and suffering along the U.S./Mexico border, visited the Congregational United Church of Christ, 30 N. Clinton St., on Thursday evening.

Sponsored by the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights, the Congregational Church, and the Unitarian Universalist Society, 10 S. Gilbert Stl, No More Deaths addressed an issue unfamiliar to many Iowans.

“To us as people living in southern Arizona, people are dying within hours of our houses,” said Hannah Hafter, a coordinator with the group. “People literally walk up to our door needing help.”
Border-states are not the only states that should show concern.

In Iowa, 4.6 percent of the population are foreign-born residents, said Steven Camarota, the director of Research for the Center of Immigration Studies. Immigrants are spreading farther from the border.

“I was familiar with the No More Deaths, and as I worked with different families in our area, many have experienced what it is like to cross the border,” said Sally Hartman, the president of Unitarian Universalist Society of Iowa City.

Iowa City human-rights organizations believe that informing the community is one of the best ways to spread the word.

“From a human-rights perspective, it is important because it affects all of us, regardless of location,” said Amy Weismann, associate director of UI Center for Human Rights.

However, a new poll from the Center of Immigration Studies indicates that most Americans do not share this sentiment. According to the poll released this month, 52 percent of likely voters said they preferred to see illegal immigrants go back to their home countries.

But Camarota warned that immigration policy creates both winners and losers.

“The Obama administration has made it easier for immigrants to stay in the United States,” Camarota said. “If you are very concerned about American workers, this is bad, but if you are concerned about the immigrants, then it is good.”

President Obama and his administration have recently addressed immigration issues. His outline for immigration reform includes strengthening border security and streamlining legal immigration, according to the White House website.

However, No More Death doesn’t necessarily believe border enforcement is always a good thing.

“Every time border enforcement increases, violence increases as well,” Hafter said.

Although the number of of immigrants crossing the border subsided for a couple of years, the number of illegal immigrants crossing the border is rising concurrently.

“The number of crossings has declined for the past couple of years, but it is now up by 9 percent and will continue to rise for the months of January, February, and March,” Camarota said.

However, those who hosted the event believe that most of the nation is unaware of the problems occurring at the border. That is why human-rights groups in Iowa City are sponsoring programs that will inform the community of an issue that is not only affecting one person, but hundreds of families and children.

“… Because we are not present to see the problems that relate to our border security, we need to be informed about the human costs at stake,” Weismann said.


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