Hispanics and Latinos make up roughly 4% of Iowa’s total population, making the group the largest ethnic minority in the state. That’s one reason why state officials say the selection of a new administrator for the Iowa Division of Latino Affairs is so important.
That agency, which operates under the Iowa Department of Human Rights, has been without an administrator since Armando Villareal resigned without explanation in late September. IDLA spokesperson Melissa Esquire says the resume submission deadline was November 30. She says a committee, assigned to recommend an administrator appointment to the governor, will conduct interviews over the next two weeks.
Villareal’s surprise departure came at a difficult time – as the state just started addressing a number of issues facing the Latino community in the northeast Iowa town of Postville. An immigration raid and other problems at the Agriprocessors plant split up families and left others out of work and unable to pay bills. Esquivel says the Iowa Commission of Civil Rights has taken the "lead role" in Postville with the IDLA acting as a liason.
"We’ve been in communication about how we can assist one another, finding interpretors if needed and those kinds of things," Esquivel said. Between 2000 and 2007, the Latino population in Iowa increased by 45-point-2 percent. Seven counties in Iowa are said to have populations where Latinos comprise at least 10-percent of their total residents: Woodbury, Crawford, Buena Vista, Franklin, Marshall, Muscatine and Louisa Counties.