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!


Join the fight


We had our first community coffee hour on #WorkersRights, with special guests Adam Wombacher from the Department of Labor, and Mitchell Mahan from Iowa Workforce Development!

The office was bustling with 40 folks.  After a “social” hour, we made a collective call to President Obama asking him to take bold action on comprehensive immigration reform,  as that day was the National Day to Stand Up for Families.

The evening consisted of a presentation on wage amd hour laws, and workers’ rights, the wage claim process, as well as misclassifications and filing OSHA complaints. The #WorkersRights training engaged the room, and what was really significant? Many heard each other’s story of wage theft/abuse on the job for the first time.

This community coffee hour is a monthly gathering for workers to create community, get trained on their rights at work, and learn to take the first steps towards organizing in their workplace.

Join us for our next community coffee hour on #WorkersRights!


Join the Fight

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


“…it reminds everyone that the immigration debate is not about politics or statistics but about human beings, it is a way to remember to put people first,” said Reverend Alejandro Alfaro-Santiz.

Iowa CCI members joined a coalition of other folks at Congressman Latham’s office in Des Moines to fight for immigration reform every Tuesday, for 30 weeks in a row. Around the noon hour, you might have seen the dedicated group along Grand Ave. with signs like “Honk for immigration reform!” or “No human being is illegal.”


This past Tuesday, their 30th week of holding these vigils, they lined the street, holding those signs firmly, with unmatchable determination.

Click here for more photos!

They then filled Congressman Latham’s office to hold a vigil.

“The vigils are important for several reasons.  First of all, so that immigrants know that there are people who are on their side, standing with them, and caring for them.  It doesn’t matter if in any given week immigration is an important topic or not on the federal or state level – we do the vigils because for many people, immigration is their daily life…

… it is a way of reminding our elected officials that there are people who care about immigration,” said Reverend Alejandro. Congressman Latham’s staff remained in their personal offices and did not address the concerns presented.

30 weeks dedicated to remembering that the war on immigration’s toll is lives, families, and hope.

Maria Romero, CCI member, routinely attended the vigils. “This is important because families need to stay together. People left violent countries seeking a better life,” said Maria.

Congressman Latham is stepping down at the end of this year, but can still help move immigration reform forward – after all, he had a weekly lesson in how to do so.

Immigration policy is ultimately decided by those in politics. This policy drastically affects human lives. This is a human issue, far more than a political one. Human lives have much more value than political conflict – for political change, that must be realized.

Thank you to our members and those who stood in solidarity for immigration reform!

Agree? Tweet this story! Don’t forget to add: #nomasdeportaciones

CCI members and staff went to a Des Moines Target  to stand in solidarity with our friends at Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Luchas –
Center for Workers United in the Struggle (CTUL).
CTUL is an organizational ally located in Minneapolis.

CTUL has been organizing cleaning workers for some time now and they have a campaign targeted at Target.

Target in the Twin Cities, Des Moines, and other locations subcontract their cleaning services. Workers are paid poverty wages. Target has the power, as one of the largest companies in our country, to hold their subcontracted companies to a higher standard – they can demand they pay a living wage.

The Minnesota Department of Health recently published a report that links poverty wages to health disparities. The report shows that workers earning poverty wages are more susceptible to diseases such as diabetes and are more prone to stress and other ailments when compared to higher wage earners. These workers live on average 8 years less.

We delivered this letter to a Des Moines Target and requested information on who they contract with to clean their stores.


Fellow CCI member, activist, and friend, Constantino Morales, is still in deportation proceedings.

We need you to call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials TODAY and ask them to stop Constantino’s deportation. Call Scott Baniecke, ICE Field Director at (952) 853-5900 and press option 9.

Thanks to you, ICE has received over 100 calls and Constantino is so grateful. Unfortunately, ICE denied our first request. But, we have sent a second request to ICE that has support from Polk Country Sheriff Bill McCarthy and Representative Bruce Hunter. Your continued action is crucial.

Here’s a little background on Constantino: Due to personal and safety circumstances in his hometown of Huehuetán, Mexico, Constantino applied for political asylum here in the U.S., but after a long process, his request was recently denied. He may be detained and deported at any time, which would put his life risk in Mexico.

Constantino is an active leader in his community. He fought alongside us in our campaign for immigration reform, and has inspired many to take action on issues affecting immigrants in Iowa.

ICE has the discretion to stop Constantino’s deportation. Will you call ICE TODAY and ask them to stop Constantino’s deportation?

Step 1: Dial Scott Baniecke, ICE Field Director at (952) 853-5900, and press option 9.

Step 2: Ask ICE to stop Constantino’s deportation:

“Hi, I am calling to ask ICE to exercise prosecutorial discretion in the case of Constantino Morales (A# 200 588 443). Constantino is a hardworking community leader who has stood up for workers’ and immigrants’ rights in Iowa, and he faces threat of violence if he is deported to Mexico. He deserves an opportunity to remain unharmed, and he is a low-priority case that should not be removed from the United States. Please stop Constantino’s deportation!

*Please note that some of the phone calls have been answered by those who attempt to shame Constantino’s name and direct you to another ICE office. If this happens, please do not be discouraged – express your support and ask Field Officer Director Baniecke to stop Constantino’s deportation. You are calling the correct field office.

Step 3: Reply to this email to let us know how your call went.

As lawmakers in Washington DC fail to fix our broken immigration system, good hard-working citizens like Constantino continue to suffer at their expense. In times like these, we must come together and stand up for justice.

Feel free to contact us with any questions.


Join the Fight!