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Deportations up in Iowa

DES MOINES — Immigration arrests and deportations increased significantly during the past year in Iowa and neighboring states, federal data shows.

Those numbers have spiked under the heightened focus on enforcing U.S. immigration laws by President Donald Trump’s administration.

Immigration arrests are up 67 percent and deportations 55 percent in the region that includes Iowa, according to the data.

“I can only speak for the Latino immigrants and the undocumented, and there is a lot of fear, a lot of apprehension and uncertainty,” Michael Reyes, who is from Davenport and is the state director of Iowa’s chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, told the bureau last year. “There are things that are happening now as a result of this current administration, and it’s got (immigrants living in the country without full legal status) in fear.”

After making immigration reform a staple of his campaign, Trump instructed his administration to enforce the nation’s immigration laws more stringently.

The Trump administration said it would continue to prioritize immigrants in the country illegally who also had been convicted of other crimes, as did President Barack Obama’s administration. But the administration made clear it would not stop there.

Approximately 11 million immigrants live in the U.S. without legal residency, according to the Pew Research Center.

“Anyone who is in the United States illegally is subject to deportation,” Trump said during a September 2016 campaign speech in Arizona.

Shortly after he took office, Trump’s administration began the work of enforcing the stronger immigration policy.

A February 2017 Department of Homeland Security fact sheet states no one in the country illegally is exempt from deportation, although aliens who commit crimes are a priority. That focus has produced significant increases in immigration arrests and deportations, according to federal data. Nationally, arrests are up 30 percent, although deportations nationally are down 6 percent, according to the data.

Federal immigration officials do not keep state-level data, but do track regional data, an agency a spokesman said. Iowa is part of a five-state area that includes Minnesota, Nebraska and the Dakotas.

Deportations in the five-state area increased 55 percent, and immigration arrests jumped 67 percent, between the federal fiscal years 2016 and 2017 — the period of time that began shortly before Trump was elected until September 2017.

And enforcement did not just focus on immigrants with a criminal history. The number of deportations of immigrants without a criminal conviction jumped 74 percent from the 2016 to 2017 budget years, and the number of arrests nearly tripled.

Immigration arrests and deportations in the five-state area had been decreasing from the 2013 to 2016 federal budget years, according to the data. The spike in 2017 brings the numbers roughly to the same level as 2013.

The federal spokesman who assisted with the data did not return a message with questions about the numbers.

In a recent report, a federal immigration official told The Washington Post the department and Trump administration simply are restoring the rule of law.

“What are we supposed to do?” Matthew Albence, the top official in the agency’s immigration enforcement division, told the Post. If the department does not uphold its duties and enforce immigration laws, Albence told the Post, “then the system has no integrity.”

Iowa immigrant advocacy groups are tracking numbers in Iowa to the best of their ability via an immigration enforcement hotline created in February 2017, a month after Trump took office.

According to the groups, in the past year 64 Iowa families have reported deportation, detention or surveillance by federal agents, and the targets have lived in Iowa from six months to 15 years.

Two beneficiaries of federal protections for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally while they were children have been detained by federal authorities, the advocacy groups said.

More than four out of every five reported arrests took place early in the morning when immigrants were on their way to work, and federal agents have targeted a handful of central Iowa Mexican restaurants, the advocacy groups said.

“They’re in survival mode as it is,” Reyes said of the immigrants under threat of arrest or deportation. “They’re just trying to put food on the table and get their kids educated, but now the deportations are disrupting their families. (Federal agents) are splitting families up.”

Sex abuse plea angers mom

ELDORA — For the past few months, Kasey Hilpipre has been trying to make sense of how a 61-year-old man originally charged with two counts of felony second-degree sex abuse will likely avoid prison time.

That man, Dean Hilpipre, allegedly assaulted Kasey’s then-6-year-old daughter in November 2016.

Now, after a Hardin County investigation involving multiple prosecutors and the Department of Human Services, a guilty plea to a lesser charge — lascivious acts with a child — has been reached.

The plea deal recommends probation, Hilpipre registering on the state’s sex offender registry and a five year no-contact order with his now 7-year-old granddaughter — but no prison sentence.

Conviction of one count of second-degree sex abuse can carry sentence of up to 25 years in prison, while conviction of lascivious acts with a child can carry a sentence of up to five years in prison.

Kasey, a Clear Lake native, called the case “a huge mess” and was upset when a plea agreement was reached in December.

According to court documents, Dr. Tracy Thomas performed a pyscho-sexual evaluation of Hilpipre, which ultimately determined there was a “very low risk” he would re-offend: .9 percent over the next five years.

Kasey, however, doesn’t see it that way.

“I believe once a pedophile, always a pedophile, as far as history goes,” she said. “It’s a really messed up system here in Iowa for sexual abusers. … It’s very difficult to figure out what they’re going to do with the case.”

If it wasn’t for another of Kasey’s daughters, now 13, reporting the abuse to a school counselor in the summer of 2016, the abuse could have continued. A few months after that initial report, Kasey said her ex-husband Dale — who lives three blocks from Hilpipre in Alden — got a knock on his door from deputies in the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office, helping kick off the investigation.

She said some of those deputies — including Jeff Brenneman, one of the lead investigators in the case — were extremely upset when they learned about the plea deal.

She said she heard the following from Brenneman and other investigators: “I’m not allowed to file charges unless they (prosecutors) know they’re going to stick. ... I wouldn’t have charged him (Hilpipre) unless I was 100 percent certain.”

Hardin County Sheriff Dave McDaniel said last week some of his deputies would have testified had Hilpipre stood trial.

“I don’t know entirely where they come to their conclusions,” he said of the plea deal. “But I was confident in our investigation, and I think we had a solid case to get a conviction.”

Kasey believes the reason the case did not go to trial was because prosecutors wanted her daughter to testify. Her ex-husband and prosecutors deemed the best way forward was a plea agreement.

She disagreed, even knowing the emotional toll it would take on her daughter, especially through cross-examination.

“Let’s go ahead and weigh the days she would deal with the anguish, versus the maybe hours she would spend on the stand,” she said.

Bob Riggs, a law professor at Drake University with expertise in criminal law, said prosecutors may be discouraged from putting children who have been victimized on the witness stand. He emphasized, however, circumstances differ from case to case.

“If you have a willing victim that’s willing to testify … it depends on what they say and how they say it,” Riggs said. “It certainly exposes them to cross-examination, which could expose certain weaknesses in the case.”

Further complicating the case, Hilpipre won $100,000 from a scratch-off lottery ticket last month. Kasey said it’s disgusting Hilpipre can keep the winnings given the charges against him.

A person’s criminal history does not disqualify them from claiming a prize, according to lottery officials, but the prize may be subject to garnishment for child support, court fees and back taxes.

Kasey, who has joint custody of her daughter, said she is doing her best to support her. She called her a strong girl for coming forward about what happened in 2016.

Three victim impact statements will read during Hilpipre’s sentencing at the Hardin County Courthouse 10 a.m. Friday, Kasey said: one from her, one from her mother and a joint statement from both her daughters that Kasey will read.

Kasey called on everyone advocating for change in child sex abuse cases to show up in hopes of getting a harsher sentence than recommended in the plea agreement.

“I think that what we need to do is rally behind each other,” Kasey said. “Iowa needs to step up — if the court system is failing — and say this is not right … children are going unprotected every day.”

Waterloo OKs no roundabouts on University

WATERLOO — The city is moving ahead with plans to reconstruct University Avenue without the controversial roundabouts used in neighboring Cedar Falls.

Waterloo City Council members voted 6-1 Monday to open construction bids and approve the design plans for rebuilding a mile-long stretch of University from Greenhill Road to Evergreen Avenue just past the Ansborough Avenue intersection.

The design reduces the roadway from six to four lanes, replaces water mains and storm sewers, adds a recreational trail and keeps the four signalized intersections at Ansborough, Sager Avenue, Falls Avenue and the frontage road near Casey’s General Store and Perkins Restaurant.

Councilman Pat Morrissey voted against the project after saying calls from himself and others to consider roundabouts at certain intersections were ignored.

“A lot of people driving University Avenue in Cedar Falls through their roundabouts (say) how slick they are, how great they are and how they work so well,” Morrissey said. “Why we would not make use of that concept at intersections is beyond me.

“I’m for public safety and I believe that roundabouts serve that purpose, and it’s showing itself in Cedar Falls,” he added. “I want us to move into the future and make use of those concepts.”

Larry Wiele, of the AECOM engineering firm that studied and designed the roadway, said roundabouts were not included after considering a cost-benefit analysis. Roundabouts would have cut off access to Alabar Plaza and the north leg of Sager.

“From a traffic standpoint, the benefits of roundabouts on this stretch of roadway were less than they were for the signals as far as traffic operations go,” Wiele said. “There’s safety benefits (to roundabouts), there’s aesthetic benefits — maybe, that’s a matter of opinion — but … we have an increase in right-of-way costs and a reduction in access to those neighborhoods.”

Peterson Contractors Inc. of Reinbeck appeared to be the low bidder at $8.7 million to rebuild first phase of the crumbling roadway, besting two other bidders and coming in well below the $11.3 million project estimate.

“It’s good fortune for the city, but it is early in the project,” Wiele said. “We’ve got two phases to go. We don’t want to count our chickens, but it is a positive start to the project.”

About $1 million of the first phase will be paid by the Waterloo Water Works because it involves main replacement. The rest comes from $28 million given by the Iowa Department of Transportation when the state turned over jurisdiction of the former state highway to the city.

Pending contract approval, the city is hoping construction can begin on the first phase in March.

The second phase will rebuild University from Greenhill Road west to the Cedar Falls city limits at Midway Drive. The final phase would rebuild University from Evergreen east to U.S. 63 near downtown.


C.F. council: Fareway yes, Kwik Star no, College Hill project may get restart

CEDAR FALLS — The City Council Monday night dealt a split decision on two proposed projects near Greenhill Road and South Main Street, while a major development in the College Hill area may be scaled down and headed back to the drawing board.

Council members voted 6-1 to approve a proposed Fareway grocery store in the Pinnacle Prairie area near Greenhill and South Main, but 4-3 against an adjacent proposed Kwik Star convenience store.

Council members also voted 5-2 against developer Brent Dahlstrom’s proposed five-story project in the College Hill area at 2119 College St. But he has submitted a revised proposal calling for four stories and utilizing more adjacent property for parking.

That proposal, submitted late last week, is “a concept,” City Administrator Ron Gaines said, and would have to go back to the city staff and the Planning and Zoning Commission for review.

Regarding the Kwik Star and Fareway projects, traffic at South Main and Greenhill remained a concern for neighboring residents.

City officials have promised a traffic study is in the works for the entire Greenhill corridor, with emphasis on the South Main intersection. While improvements to that intersection are planned in 2021, city officials have suggested a traffic study may result in more immediate work.

Council member Rob Green indicated he voted against both the Fareway and Kwik Star projects because of traffic concerns.

“I think that we’re going to be dealing with some real problems and traffic snarls, not just for today but in the future, for these neighborhoods,” Green said.

Neighbors raised additional concerns about the Kwik Star project, including about storm water drainage and treatment of contaminated storm water from gas spills. City officials said retention and treatment is required for any gas station, but council member Daryl Kruse questioned whether it would be adequate with a heavy rain.

Neighbors also were concerned about lighting, overnight traffic, potential crime and property devaluation. They noted there already was a Kwik Star nearby on Ridgeway Avenue.

Council member Dave Wieland voted for the Fareway project and against the Kwik Star.

“There was a petition with a large number of people” opposed to Kwik Star, Wieland said, more than were opposed to a proposed Wal-Mart there more than a decade ago. “I was looking for Kwik Star to compromise on the issues. They did on some. But they didn’t on all of them. To me, there was compromising things that could be done that would make that so that it’s invisible to the neighbors.”

In contrast there was a petition in favor of the Fareway project, Wieland said, and less opposition on balance.

Council members Kruse, Green and Susan deBuhr joined Wieland in voting down the Kwik Star proposal.

Regarding Dahlstrom’s College Hill proposal, Community Development Director Stephanie Houk Sheetz told council members they could only consider his five-story project Monday night, not the four-concept turned in late last week.

“That concept is not under consideration tonight,” she said. “It would need to go back to the Planning and Zoning Commission for consideration. We see several challenges with that,” in that additional parking is now proposed on residential lots.

But council member Tom Blanford said, “I know the proposal isn’t officially submitted” as far as the city staff is concerned, “but I think the developer had some compromise options” that addressed parking concerns. “I would encourage us to allow that to move forward.”

The four-story building would have 109 parking spaces — more than the 65 in the plan the council voted down Monday night — and fewer total beds.

Only council members Wieland and Frank Darrah voted for the five-story plan, which had ground-floor commercial space and upper-story apartments.

Opponents said that proposal would compound parking problems on the Hill. Supporters said it would boost growth in an area lagging behind the rest of the city, provide housing closer to the University of Northern Iowa campus and slow conversions of single-family homes into apartments.

While Hill business owners were divided on the plan, several rental property owners opposed it. Project proponents suggested those landlords didn’t want the competition Dahlstrom’s project would pose.