A rally in Des Moines tonight will call for justice for a former Iowa meatpacker who’s now an advocate for blue-collar workers but faces deportation. Former co-worker and defense coordinator Joe Swanson says Roger Calero has lived in the U.S. for half his life.When he was 16, Calero was convicted of selling an ounce of marijuana to an undercover cop and now the INS wants to deport him based on that case. Swanson, who worked with Calero at a meatpacking plant in Perry years ago, says the young man had long since made amends for his youthful offense. He says he “copped a plea,” and got 60 days probation, finished school, went to college, became a worker active in the labor movement and now a journalist for a Spanish-language workers’ newspaper. During the Clinton administration, rules were tightened for using old convictions as a basis to throw out immigrants, but Swanson says it’s not fair since Calero’s “legal permanent resident” status was re-confirmed in 2000. Swanson says this case is just like hundreds of thousands of others around the U.S., where people who committed minor infractions served their time, made amends and achieved permanent resident status, only to find the immigration service going after them now. Defense committees have formed on behalf of Calero in Minnesota, where he once worked at a South St. Paul packing plant, and Iowa, where Calero worked at IBP in Perry. He’s 33 now and a writer for a nationwide workers’ newspaper Perspectivo Mundial and a program about his plight will begin at six tonight at Visitation Church on east ninth street in Des Moines.
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