MOUNT PLEASANT — At 15 years old, high school student Walfred Uriza considers himself orphaned by the immigration raid that landed his father in the Linn County Jail, potentially waiting to be deported.
Elmer Uriza is one of the 32 men arrested May 9 at the MPC Enterprises manufacturing plant by immigration officials working with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations.
That day, Walfred was picked up from the Mount Pleasant Community High School by a family friend who told him of his father’s fate — breaking the news that the teen was now alone.
As Walfred told his story Wednesday evening at the First Presbyterian Church, following a meeting there of the Iowa Welcomes Immigrant Neighbors organization, Eneida Carrillo translated, stopping to explain that Walfred doesn’t want to think about what would happen if his dad is deported.
“The lawyer told him today he will probably be able to do nothing for his dad,” Carrillo said. “I told him he needs to keep believing. Miracles can happen every day.”
Elmer decided to move him and his son to the United States after gangs in Guatemala sought to use Walfred as a drug mule. Although Elmer told gang leaders they couldn’t use his son, and went to the local police in Guatemala for help, officials said there was nothing they could do.
So Elmer relented, allowing the gangs to use Walfred to move drugs once, thinking after he did so they would leave the Uriza family alone.
But soon Walfred was contacted again. With threats to his son’s life, Elmer believed he had no choice but to move both to the United States.
Walfred’s mom remained in Guatemala.
“With all the gangs and drugs and cartels in our country, the future is very black,” said Carrillo, who is also from Guatemala and whose immigration review is in progress.
Elmer was the first to arrive in Mount Pleasant, promising Walfred he would send for him. That was four and a half years ago. Today, Walfred awaits a hearing in August on his request for asylum, something his father pursued before his arrest, fearing just that.
Unfortunately, because of the expense of applying for asylum, the family could afford to go through the process only one at a time.
As Walfred waits to hear what will happen with his father, he feels guilty about the decision for him to seek asylum first. But Carrillo reminded him that’s the reason Elmer chose Walfred — he knew an immigration arrest like the one at MPC Enterprises could happen at any time and was worried for his son’s safety.
However, Walfred believes that if his father is deported to Guatemala, the drug gangs will find him and kill him.
Walfred is now bouncing between families in the community as they await word about Elmer. He has not been offered bail to get out of jail.
Walfred and Carrillo hope that by telling the teen’s story, others will feel a little bit of the pain they are suffering and think of a child with a father in jail.
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
“We hold this pain in our community now,” Carrillo explained, saying that while she is thankful for the outpouring of support from the community, families are still fearful.