IOWA CITY, Iowa (KGAN/CNN) — A group of eastern Iowans recently learned how to protect themselves and others during raids conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The Iowa City Catholic Worker House taught more than a dozen people how to intervene in a non-violent manner.
The all-day training at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Coralville, Iowa, included drills and scenarios, like defending church sanctuaries from ICE raids, protecting refugees from white nationalist militias, and breaking up fights at protests.
The Rev. Peter Dougherty, a Catholic priest from Lansing, Michigan, led the training. Since 1975, he has given a variety of people the skills to defuse potential acts of violence.
“How can I help other people grow, heal, and learn how to deal with conflict? Not avoid conflict but deal with it in a way where I am respectful of the person who is threatening me,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty and other attendees want to help refugees like Modesta Mateo Pedro and her family
In 2017, Pedro immigrated to the U.S. with her two children, Pablo and Maria. Pedro left Guatemala to escape violence and to reunite with her husband, Francisco, and their eldest son, Andres.
“It took about 20 to 25 days to pass through all of Mexico
Ten days after arriving in Iowa City, Pedro had an appointment with ICE. Her husband accompanied her, but ICE agents ended up arresting him.
“After about 20 minutes, someone came out to me and said, ‘I’m sorry, miss, but we’re not going to let your husband leave, and you need to find yourself a ride back to your apartment. Your husband will stay here, and next week, he will be deported,'” Pedro explained.
That left Pedro to look after her three children with no money or a job.
No one would hire her, she said, because of the ankle bracelet immigration officials put on her as soon as she crossed the border.
“I asked for jobs with people, but they wouldn’t give me work because I had this ankle bracelet. ‘Oh, my God,’ I said, ‘How will I survive? I have three kids. How will they eat?'” Pedro said.
Organizations like the Iowa City Catholic Worker House helped her get back on her feet, but the worry of ICE coming after her family is still on her oldest son’s mind.
“He is scared, and he tells me, ‘Mom, if immigration comes for me at school, what do I do? What do I do if they take me? Where will I go if our country is so bad? I don’t want to go there,”‘ Pedro said.
To help migrants deal with scenarios similar to that of the Pedro family, the Catholic Worker House held a training session on how to protect refugees during ICE raids.
“How do we help people grow to become more inclusive and accepting of people into the community as human beings and equal?” Dougherty said
Pedro hopes immigration enforcement officials recognize the impact they’re having on families.
“They’re not doing great things when they’re separating families, because it’s sad to tear apart a family. If they were in our shoes, they would see that it’s not right,” Pedro said.