By Barb Arland-Fye
Ten-year-old Ximena of Mount Pleasant sent a text message to her new friend, Loxi Hopkins, a volunteer with the Diocese of Davenport’s Social Action Office. “She’s helping me with my Spanish,” said Loxi, who brags about Ximena as if she were one of Loxi’s grandchildren. “She does really well in math and science and says she loves everything about school,” Loxi gushed.
Their friendship began in an unusual setting: the federal courthouse in Davenport, where some of the 32 men arrested in Mount Pleasant last month for alleged immigration violations had bond hearings. One of them is an extended family member of Ximena, who was born in the United States. Her mom, a legal resident, drove the relative and other family members to the courthouse in Davenport.
Loxi discovered that she and Ximena both have birthdays in October and Ximena pointed out something else they share in common: both have the letter “x” in their names. “Everything in life excites her,” Loxi said.
For Loxi, it’s all about family. She takes very seriously her church’s belief that we are all sisters and brothers in Christ, children of the same God. That’s why Loxi and Glenn Leach, also a volunteer in the diocesan Social Action Office, and their boss, Social Action Director Kent Ferris, attend court hearings in Davenport and rallies in Mount Pleasant. That’s why Father Paul Connolly, pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Mount Pleasant; Father Bernie Weir, pastor of St. James Parish in Washington; and Father Guillermo Trevino, who serves parishes in Davenport and Buffalo, also have attended hearings. These immigrants are like many families in the parishes the priests serve — contributing to the tax base and raising families to flourish in southeast Iowa.
The presence of lay and clergy at the courthouse and rallies makes a difference to the families, the judges and the attorneys, Loxi says. “You can’t even imagine how much it means to them, that people who don’t even know them come to the court hearings.”
While many of the 32 men arrested May 9 at their workplace have been released on bond, they cannot be employed until they have updated their work permits. That can be a lengthy process, said the Rev. Trey Hegar, pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Mount Pleasant, which serves as the hub for assistance to the families impacted by the immigration raid.
“We’re not doing this alone,” Pastor Hegar said. Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Davenport, led by Kent Ferris, has been a tremendous help and provided a $5,000 donation shortly after the raid. Other faith communities and organizations are providing support as well. “We’ve had tremendous volunteers and donations from across the state and the nation,” the pastor said.
The teachers’ association in Mount Pleasant voted to make a donation. “That about made me cry,” he added. “A lot of these kids (of the impacted families) are their students. They do love their kids.”
First Presbyterian collects the donations through its Iowa WINS (Iowa Welcomes Immigrant Neighbors) commission. The total raised to date is $85,000, but the money goes quickly to help pay attorneys’ fees, rent, utilities and other expenses. The church also operates a food pantry Mondays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to noon for families impacted by the ICE raid, Rev. Hegar said. Monetary donations are needed most. “Once the money is gone; it’s gone.”
Send an email to email@example.com to learn more about Iowa WINS or to make a donation. Material donations may be delivered to First Presbyterian Church in Mount Pleasant, located at 902 S. Walnut St.
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation (UUC) at 3707 Eastern Ave., Davenport, is also serving as a drop-off site for donations from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (call ahead at 563-359-0816). Loxi and other volunteers shuttle the donations to the Mount Pleasant church.
Loxi is keeping an eye on the Mount Pleasant families while also helping to organize a June 30 rally at Davenport’s Vander Veer Park to address our nation’s immigration crisis. “When I think about Ximena and her little sister and friends, I think any one of these could be our children or grandchildren.”
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)