Immigration issues brought to light in WLCS webinar


by Colbee Cunningham , Staff Reporter

On Oct. 13, the world language and culture studies department hosted the first installment of its three-part “Latinx Communities in Iowa” conversation that featured immigration law expert Ann Naffier and centered around immigration issues facing the Latinx community of Des Moines.

Naffier is a managing attorney at Iowa Justice For Our Neighbors (IowaJFON), a non-profit organization that provides low-income Iowans with free immigration legal council. She has been an immigration lawyer for nine years, having helped hundreds of individuals gain entry into the U.S.

Within her presentation, Naffier an emphasis on the unjust nature of U.S. immigration law. She analyzed the different government policies associated with family-based, employment-based and humanitarian-based immigration. 

Using concrete examples, Naffier explored how immigration laws disfavor low-income individuals, particularly those from Central America. She demonstrated how rising application fees blatantly discriminate against individuals with an undesirable public charge (a person’s economic status and the likelihood of needing government assistance programs).

Naffier went on to detail the negative impact that the Trump administration has had on immigration law. She used Trump’s decision to terminate DACA and TPS (temporary protective status) as examples, among others. Naffier even went as far as to state that “Working in immigration law right now is like working in a tornado” thanks to Trump.

Making a local connection, Naffier was keen to demonstrate how Trump’s anti-immigration policies have had devastating effects on Iowa’s immigrant communities. She pointed out that Trump’s flippant actions have endangered the legal status of more than 2,500 DACA recipients and 1,500 TPS recipients in Iowa.

Likewise, seeing as the World Languages department hosted the dialogue, Naffier made it a point to share how her acquisition of the Spanish language supplemented her career as an immigration lawyer. 

After her presentation, Naffier engaged in a Q&A session, addressing immigration quotas, climate refugees and familial separation.

This event was made possible by the Spanish department’s Simpson Urban Studies Institute (SUSI) grant, which fosters relationships between Simpson College and the Spanish-speaking community of Des Moines. The SUSI team consists of two Spanish professors, Laura Cesarco Eglin and Molly Tun, and two Spanish majors, Laura Meza and Patricia Telthorst.

“I think the event went very well,” Telthorst said. “We had a great turnout. It’s important to be informed on these issues because immigration can be a polarizing topic in this country. Hopefully, Ann Naffier’s talk educated and opened the minds of the listeners.”

Naffier’s presentation was the first of three webinars hosted by the SUSI team. The last two webinars are to be held on Oct. 21 and Nov. 12. The second installment will feature Sonia Reyes with the Iowa Office of Latino Affairs. The third installment will feature Joe Enriquez Henry with the League of United Latin American Citizens.