Yesterday, Iowa Congressman Steve King mocked me on Twitter. 

He poked back at my tweet with a racial insult because I’m an immigrant.

I was shaken and very angry. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from CCI it’s this: when everyday people are under attack – we stand up and fight back!

I was in Washington DC with a team of CCI members for the People’s Action #RiseUp2017 conference. We had meetings scheduled with aides from most of Iowa’s Congressional delegation. King’s staffers did not to show up – so we went to King’s office … and we Facebook Lived it.

We told King’s staff that his toxic tweets are dehumanizing and that his harassment of immigrants in our community has got to stop. It does not represent Iowa values.

I chose to move here five years ago because Iowa has a history of welcoming immigrants and refugees. I love it here. I met my husband here. I started my interpretation business here. And, I have my CCI family!

Our video confronting King’s staff has gone viral.

As of noon today (4/16) it has over 38,330 views on our Facebook page and hundreds of shares and comments. The story is being picked up by several major news outlets.

This is who we are. CCI is tough and tenacious whereever we go! The important work we do together continues. 

Whether it be for a living wage, clean water, or to stop racial profiling — Iowa CCI members and staff are there fighting tooth and nail for the people, the planet, and the country we love. There really aren’t too many organizations that go to bat for everyday folks in this way.

The outpouring of support has been heartwarming, thank you.

BUT, I’d be remiss as a proud Iowa CCI board member if I did not ask you to help this organization I love!

Will you join me and donate $25 (or more if possible) today?

Your support feuls the much needed fight back and organizing ahead.



Vanessa Marcano-Kelly
Iowa CCI Board Member


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This we wholeheartedly agree: Immigrants make America great!

Iowa CCI and CCI Action are standing in solidarity with millions of Americans who reject President  Trump’s hateful and racist ban on Muslims, refugees and immigrants. CCI members pledge to fight back against any attack on our communities; an attack on one of us is an attack on ALL of us.

We’ve been getting a lot of calls from members all across the state asking how we can fight back against Trump’s executive ban on Muslims and attacks on immigrants. We’ve pulled together some information on actions happening all across the state to protect our immigrant communities.
Take a look at our guide below and let us know of actions near you that aren’t listed here!

Here are THREE WAYS you can take action and say #NoBanNoWall 


Thursday, thousands of Iowans across the state are hitting the streets in Des Moines, Ames and Iowa City to protest against Trump’s executive orders against our Muslim and immigrant brothers and sisters.

Ames: #HoodiesAndHijabs Solidarity March, Thursday, Feb 9th, 11 AM, Iowa State University, Memorial Union. Click here for more details.

Des Moines: DSM March Against Muslim Ban & Anti-Immigrant Orders, Thursday, Feb 2nd, 5-8 PM, State Capitol. Rally begins at 5 PM on Capitol steps. Click here for more details.

Iowa City: Solidarity Rally Against the Ban, Sunday, February 5th, 1 PM, downtown Iowa City Ped Mall, click here for more details.

Cedar Falls: Rally to protest executive orders banning refugees and building the wall, Sunday, February 5th, 2:30 PM- 3 PM, 515 Main Street, Cedar Falls. Hosted by Americans for Democratic Action/Iowa.


Des Moines: Forum on Protecting Communities & Responding to Hate Crimes, Wednesday, February 1st, 5:30-9 PM, Des Moines University (hosted by the Des Moines Civil Rights Commission). Click here for more details.

Des Moines: Faith Communities as Sanctuary exploratory meeting, Tuesday, February 7th, 4:30-6:30 PM, First Christian Church, 2500 University Ave. Click here for more details.

Des Moines : I am Iowa: Interfaith Community Gathering in Support of Refugees and Immigrants, Sunday, February 5th, North High School, 501 Holcomb Ave. Click here for more details.

Waterloo: Panel to discuss recent executive order ban on immigrants and refugees, Sunday, Feb 5th, noon – 2:00 PM, Hawkeye Community College, 1501 E Orange Rd, Tama Building, room 102.  Hosted by the Cedar Valley Interfaith Council and Masjid Al-Noor Islamic Center.

Members of the panel will include Miriram Amer, executive director of the Iowa branch of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, Gunda Brost of Brost Immigration Law firm, Ruth Ratliff of St. Luke Episcopal Church and Kamyar Enshayan, former Cedar Falls City Council member.

The program is free and open to the public.

3. By-stander intervention: What to do if you are witnessing Islamophbic or immigrant phobic harassment

Check out these great tips from French illustrator Maeril on how YOU can speak out and help a person who’s being targeted:

1.) Engage in conversation [with the person experiencing harassment, not their attacker]. Go to them, sit beside them and say hello. Try to appear calm, collected and welcoming. IGNORE THE ATTACKER.

2.) Pick a random subject and start discussing it. It can be anything: a movie you liked, the weather, saying you like something they wear and asking where they got it…

3.) Keep building the safe space. Keep eye contact with them and don’t acknowledge the attacker’s presence: the absence of response from you two will push them to leave the area shortly.

4.) Continue the conversation until the attacker leaves and escort them to a safe place if necessary. Bring them to a neutral area where they can recollect themselves; respect their wishes if they tell you they’re ok and just want to go.

LIKE and SHARE if you agree: Muslims, immigrants and refugees are #HeretoStay

Thank you to the ACLU for providing this information, which is not intended as legal advice.

Your Rights

You have the right to remain silent. If you wish to exercise that right, say so out loud.

You have the right to refuse to consent to a search of yourself, your car, or your home.

If you are not under arrest, you have the right to calmly leave.

You have the right to a lawyer if you are arrested. Ask for one immediately.

Regardless of your immigration or citizenship status, you have constitutional rights.


Your Responsibilities 

Do stay calm and be polite.

Do not interfere with or obstruct the police.

Do not lie or give false documents.

Do prepare yourself and your family in case you are arrested.

Do remember the details of the encounter.

Do file a written complaint or contact your local ACLU if you feel your rights have been violated.


Read more detail on your rights, here.


Former Mexican police officer denied asylum in US shows need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform now

Des Moines, IA.  On Sunday night Constantino Morales, a community leader on immigration issues in Iowa, was shot and killed after being deported to Mexico on September 2, 2014.  Constantino, a former police officer for the Guerrero State Police Force in Mexico, came to the United States in 2010 after being assaulted three times by armed men and receiving threats while working.

In 2011, Constantino joined Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement when he experienced wage theft in Iowa and racial profiling by the local police departments.  He became more involved in immigrant justice issues and quickly became a community leader in Des Moines, helping lead actions related to immigration reform, sharing his testimony and getting others in the community involved in fighting for fair and just immigration reform.

In 2011 Constantino received his first notice to appear before court for residing in the US without documentation. Due to the fact that he had been a police officer in Mexico, Constantino told the immigration judge that he was scared to return home, the judge told him to apply for asylum. He applied for asylum in June 2013 and was denied asylum on February 27, 2014.

He didn’t stop there.  Members of the community started a “Stop Constantino’s Deportation” campaign.  Community leaders and Constantino met with former Congressman Latham, Senator Grassley, Des Moines Sherriff Bill McCarthy, State Legislators, Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) staff and other appointed and elected officials who could have weighed in to stop Constantino’s deportation.  They also started asking other Iowans to write letters and make phone calls to ICE to ask them to cancel the deportation – generating hundreds of postcards and over 200 calls to ICE.

As a former Mexican police officer who stood up to publicly against drug trafficking he knew that if he returned to Mexico he would face grave danger.

At a meeting on August 6, 2013, Constantino told Rep. Latham, “If I am sent back, I will face more violence and I could lose my life. We are in severe need of fair immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship. We don’t want any excuses; we know you can make this happen.”

In April 2014, CCI members were in Washington D.C. and pleaded with Senator Grassley to take action to stop Constantino’s deportation.

On April 21, 2014, Iowa CCI sent a second request for prosecutorial discretion, with letters of support from Des Moines Sherriff Bill McCarthy and Iowa State Representative Bruce Hunter, but the request was denied.  Prosecutorial discretion is the authority of an agency or officer  to exercise discretion in deciding when to prosecute and when not to prosecute based on a priority system has long been recognized as a critical part of U.S. law.  Specifically, prosecutorial discretion may be exercised when deciding whether to: issue a detainer; initiate removal proceedings; focus enforcement resources on particular violations or conduct; stop, question, or arrest a particular person; detain or release someone on bond, supervision, or personal recognizance; settle or dismiss a removal case; stay a final order of removal; pursue an appeal; and/or execute a removal order.

The news of Constantino’s death has saddened and angered the Latino and Immigrant Rights Community.

“This tragedy could have been prevented,”  said Luis Rodriguez, CCI Leader.  “People are dying while Congress and our elected officials fail to act. How many more people have to die?”

Every year, thousands of people are torn apart from their families and deported back to Mexico and other Latin American countries.  There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States that live in the shadows, who fear deportation.

CCI and other community leaders are planning a vigil to honor and remember Constantino and his passion for helping undocumented immigrants escape from the shadows.  More details to come about time, date and location of vigil. Constantino Morales is survived by a wife and six children.


Join the Fight

  • Contact us for more information. !Hablamos español!
  • Join as an Iowa CCI member
  • Sign up for our email Action List

CCI members hail proposed relief for immigrant families

Obama’s executive order a needed step in bringing Comprehensive Immigration Reform back into national spotlight

Des Moines, IA – Members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement are applauding proposed executive action on immigration by President Obama.

Initial press reports indicate the proposed changes could protect some 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. According to reports, the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents will be able to apply to remain in the country and work. The reforms are also expected to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to help more undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children. This includes an estimated 16,500 aspiring Iowans, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

“We applaud President Obama’s executive order. We have been fighting for years to win relief from a broken immigration system that tears our families and our communities apart.” said Iowa CCI board member Nataly Espinosa. “Because of this action, families will be able to stop living in fear.”

“Families across Iowa and throughout the nation deserve the dignity to call themselves citizens after living in the U.S. for decades,” said Iowa CCI member Maria Romero. “Not only that but they have been stimulating the economy for years but have yet to reap benefits from those contributions.”

Since the passing of the Senate-approved immigration plan last year, Iowa CCI members have been educating and mobilizing communities to push Congressman Tom Latham and Steve King to support CIR.

“Senator Grassley and Congressmen Latham & King have had six years to work with President Obama to find a workable solution to the crisis facing our families and communities, but they have obstructed and refused every step of the way.” Added Espinosa. “They are out of touch with everyday Iowans on this issue. Iowa is welcoming, and we support today’s action with the realization that there is more work to be done.”

Iowa CCI members have been organizing and mobilizing communities in support of comprehensive immigration reform that keeps families together and that guarantees a clear pathway to citizenship, defends civil and worker rights, and maintains protections for future immigrants to the U.S.

Iowa CCI believes that comprehensive immigration reform should focus on inclusion, not exclusion, and that citizenship should not be limited to small groups of specialized workers or people with advanced degrees in technology, science, or engineering.

Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is a group of everyday people who talk, act and get things done on issues that matter most. With thousands of members from all walks of life — urban and rural, black and white, immigrants and lifelong Iowans — CCI has been tackling tough issues and getting things done for more than 35 years. 



Vanessa Marcano-Kelly, former CCI all-star Latino organizer, was awarded the  Iowa Latino Leadership Award!


This award is an honor from the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and was given to Vanessa on November 1 in front of a packed house! We miss her dearly, from her perseverance, smarts, to her constant kindness, and she’s already making waves in her next adventure! LULAC could not have picked anyone better.

We wanted to spread her inspiring words – enjoy!

Good evening. Buenas noches! I am truly honored to receive this award tonight, and very grateful to LULAC for having chosen me as the recipient of this award in 2014. I would like to dedicate this to my family, especially my mom Mirna, who is in Venezuela, where I was born and raised. And to my husband, Michael, who has been my compañero and support during my time as a community organizer. I am extremely thankful to my hermana en la lucha (sister in the struggle), co-organizer Ani Mancebo, and to the members of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (Iowa CCI), the organization that gave me the tools and support to organize and win important victories in our communities.

Powerful victories for Latinos and other workers of color, such as getting a company like Hubbell Homes to adopt an anti-wage theft clause in their contracts; or recovering over $175,000 in wages stolen from workers; or empowering Latino workers to speak at the Statehouse to push laws that crack down on wage theft, raise the minimum wage, and give drivers’ licenses to immigrants. Or more recently, and with the support of great allies like LULAC, the adoption by the Des Moines City Council of a responsible bidder questionnaire to ensure workers and taxpayers are protected from unscrupulous companies bidding on public projects.

Our work, alongside important allies like LULAC, has positioned CCI as one of the leading organizations standing up for the dignity of workers. I am very proud of this work, and of the lucha, the spirit of struggle so characteristic of our Latino community. I thank all of you for this honor, and for fighting for social justice alongside our people. The struggle lives on! La lucha sigue! Thank you all for this great honor – Muchas gracias.

Thanks for all of your hard work Vanessa – onward!


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