An Iowa group is featured in a national report on how faith communities are playing a role in the immigration reform movement. The report by the Center for American Progress cites the Decorah Area Faith Coalition and its role in the Agriproccessors immigration raid in Postville.
Reverend Mike Blevins of the Calmar United Methodist Church says the raid brought people of all religions together to help. Blevins says the entire region was “traumatized” but he says one of the things to come out of the raid and how it was conducted is that the Decorah Area Faith Coalition and the Postville Faith Coalition combined to respond to those in need. Blevins says the raid and the work by the churches afterward shed new light on the plight of immigrants.
He says the “grassroots attitude” of people changed as human faces and stories made an “abstract polarized issue one of compelling human suffering, of injustice, of violation of basis biblical and national values.” “So we’ve seen a sea change here,” Blevins said. Blevins says the human side got legislators talking about the issue. He says the impact has gone beyond northeast Iowa.
Blevins says they have received support in Postville and Decorah from all over the world as St. Bridges in Postville had to raise $8,000 a month to support the one thousand people that were left “destitute” as a result of the raid. “The pain of the raid has become the promise of reform as the stories have become more visible,” Blevins says. Blevin says the faith coalitions plan to follow up on their prayer service in February with another in November that will continue to address the issue.
Blevins says they will continue to emphasize the “humanity of our neighbors and to overcome some of the hostility that we have seen in town hall meetings over the issue of healthcare.” So he says they will have a town hall potluck to talk celebrate their diversity. Belvins says Decorah has a heavy Norwegian population, one that celebrates that heritage. You can see more in the report ” Loving Thy Neighbor: Immigration Reform and Communities of Faith” on the Center for American Progress website.