32 men arrested in ICE criminal investigation - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

32 men arrested in ICE criminal investigation

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The arrest of 32 men by immigration officials on Wednesday came as a shock to the Mt. Pleasant community.

"They were a lot of people that had it surrounded," Jay Wehrle, of Mount Pleasant, said he was woken up by a loud helicopter overheard on Wednesday morning. When he looked out his window, he saw a heavy presence at the business of Midwest Precast Concrete.

"I seen a lot of patrol cars. A lot of police men. The helicopter was the predominant one. It was running around, coming down, going up," he said.

Wehrle said he had no idea what was happening but he did know that in twenty years of living next to the concrete problem, he had never had seen anything like it. He said it made him expect the worst and believed something violent had transpired.

"Not having any knowledge of what was going on, it was kind of scary. If they would have told us, they could have gone around right here and let us know what was going on," he said.

The Department of Homeland Security confirmed Wednesday that 32 men had been arrested for administrative immigration violations. The majority were from Guatemala, officials said.

In a news release, it said special agents and deportation officers executed a search warrant to Midwest Precast Concrete with help from local law enforcement. The department said there is "no threat to the public," and said it would not comment further until court documents in the case had been filed.

Wehrle said the news came as a shock. 

It was a shock wave felt across the entire community.

"I'm just very, very sad that this is happening to this community. It really pulls families apart," Tammy Shull said. "to have those families torn apart gives me a really ill feeling."

Shull leads the group IowaWINs or Iowa "Welcomes Immigrant Neighbors." After the news broke, Shull and other group and church members organized at First Presbyterian Church in town to help any children that may have been affected by the raid.

"When Postville happened ten years, there were kids that were left behind because both parents were detained. We said this is a place where they could come," Rev. Trey Hegar, the church's pastor, said.

Rev. Hegar said the church had been in communication with the Mt. Pleasant Community School District, that if any children had been left behind and stuck at the school could come to the church for help. He said it wasn't about the laws but about helping the children.

"There are kids that are affected and not by their own choice and we're here for them," he said.

Wehrle also had feelings about what had happened just outside his front door.

"If they were here illegally, I would have no problem with that. If they were not here legally then I would have a problem and I would want them rounded up and taken back from where they come from," he said.

Shull said the IowaWINs group will work to try and find legal representation for the men detained.

Midwest Precast Concrete could not be reached for a comment about the arrests.

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