Immigrant Services Provided in Iowa

Iowa is a long way from Somalia or Vietnam or even El Salvador. Yet on Tuesday afternoons at Friends House in Des Moines, “walk-ins” from a number of distant lands arrive at AFSC for low-cost immigration legal services. Others come by appointment throughout the week for needs such as applying for a green card or citizenship, or bringing a family member to join them in the U.S.

According to Jody Mashek, who directs the legal services program, AFSC assists nearly 1,000 people from over 50 countries each year. “While different in many ways, their stories are always compelling,” Jody says. “They reflect an amazing amount of endurance and hope in the face of huge challenges.”

This spring, two college interns at AFSC interviewed a number of clients and posted their stories online. Along with interviewing immigrants, Sara Crippen served as a bilingual receptionist during walk-in hours, and Mara Davidson helped AFSC Iowa ramp up its social media presence.

New Resource for Immigrants Published

The immigrant rights program in Greensboro, North Carolina, recently published a Know Your Rights booklet. AFSC staff Lori Fernald Khamala consulted with other organizations and collaborated with Eric Jonas (who drew the graphic illustrations) on the updated text. The booklet is in Spanish and describes immigrant rights at home, in the car, at work, and in detention, providing an excellent resource for immigrants across the state. Plans are to publish the material in English, too. In other locales, such as Newark, New Jersey, AFSC has provided “Know Your Rights” workshops and printed information for immigrants. News from around AFSC Stories of Hope & Inspiration From left, “Angela,” a client of AFSC’s immigrant legal services program in Des Moines, with AFSC interns Sara Crippen and Mara Davidson. Originally from El Salvador, “Angela” came to AFSC seeking help with a travel document she needed in order to visit her ailing parents.

California Prison Hunger Strike

After nearly three weeks, the prisoners in the solitary confinement unit at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison ended their hunger strike on July 21. Corrections officials made some immediate concessions, prompting the inmates to break their fasts and begin work on long-term changes. Mediators for the strike leaders say the men extend their deepest thanks to supporters outside and credit that support with this success.

Laura Magnani, who directs AFSC’s programs in Northern California, is one of the inmate-chosen mediators for the Pelican Bay hunger strikers. This appointment follows her many years working to improve prison conditions. She has called isolation units “so dehumanizing, it’s almost unimaginable,” describing near constant noise and frequent actions by guards who barge into cells and hog-tie prisoners. Laura and the other inmate advocates will monitor the corrections department in the months ahead to make sure it meets the prisoners’ core demands.

NOTE :  Just before Quaker Action went to press with this story, the Pelican Bay hunger strike resumed. Laura Magnani said, “What other avenues do prisoners have? We call on California to move quickly to address the problems of solitary confinement in the state’s prisons.” Learn more.