Ninoska Campos defends Latino immigrants around Iowa City


This story is part of the Iowa City Press-Citizen’s People to Watch in 2022 series. The stories highlight the people of Iowa from whom we expect great things in the coming year.

Ninoska Campos wants Iowa to listen to the voices of a growing Latin American population after successfully making its voice heard in Johnson County in 2021.

Dozens of people who did not receive federal stimulus checks during the COVID-19 pandemic, most of them undocumented immigrants and those formerly incarcerated, have for months been asking local governments to make direct payments to these. “Excluded workers” with the money from the US bailout. In Iowa, Campos helped take the lead of the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition, becoming one of the most recognizable faces of the movement.

It is his continued efforts to give a voice to Latino immigrants that make Campos one of Press-Citizen’s “people to watch” for 2022.

Campos spoke to the Press-Citizen, with Emily Sinnwell, founder of the Iowa City Catholic Worker House, as performer, in November.

Campos, 38, arrived in the United States from Honduras in May 2019. She said her life was not easy at home, battling poverty, corruption, gangs and violence and deprivation. government support. These affected her personally because she owned a small business selling used clothing from the United States.

“Because we had to face all of these things, we were forced to leave our country to seek a better life,” she said. “With the economy of our country, instead of going forward, you are going backwards.”

Campos came to the United States with her children, Jennifer and Fernando. Her husband was deported in 2020, but she is still awaiting the conclusion of her own immigration case.

She said she was positive about the outcome, but doesn’t know how long it will take.

Following: Press-Citizen “Person to Watch” 2022: Carmen Gwenigale, the “second mom” of Iowa City schools, plays a bigger role

“We had to do it”: cleaning up during the pandemic puts her in danger

During the pandemic, Campos worked at a McDonalds, for a downtown restaurant and in various hotels. She was hired to clean the areas that needed to be disinfected because the rooms were used for people who caught COVID-19.

She said that she would pray to God daily to take care of her while working, and that she would take measures like bringing extra clothes to change, washing them thoroughly, for fear of infecting her children and others.

“You can’t imagine how difficult it was. My other colleagues and I knew this floor was positive for COVID, but it was our job to risk our lives to work there,” Campos said. “But the need to get paid and get a check to support our families, we had to.”

Campos found help at the Iowa City Catholic Worker House a year after arriving in the United States. The organization was able to help her at a time when she was struggling to pay rent and utility bills.

Campos has already made waves in the Iowa City community, becoming the face of the Fund’s Excluded Workers’ movement that calls on local governments to use more than $ 50 million from the US bailout to provide relief to essential workers at low prices. salary and people excluded from other federal stimulus payments.

Campos has often been seen leading protests with a megaphone in hand or as the first to speak during public comments at dozens of Johnson County Board of Supervisors or Iowa City Council meetings.

The work of Campos and FEW paid off when the Johnson County Supervisory Board committed $ 2 million for these targeted economic impact payments. Iowa City has pledged an additional $ 1 million to $ 1.5 million to complete the county’s pledge. This was the first such program approved in Iowa.

But those payments likely won’t be distributed until March, two years after the start of the pandemic and more than a year since the other federal stimulus payments were distributed. The supervisory board spent December haggling over the details of who is eligible for these payments and how the county will disburse them.

Although the allowance is far less than what FEW asked for, Campos said the money was a “historic” victory for her and others who helped the county see the injustices she said they were. faced by being excluded from relief payments.

And after? More ambitious statewide goals for the Latino advocacy group she helped form

Next, Campos hopes to continue advocating for Latino issues through a group she helped form called “Escucha Mi Voz” in Iowa City. Campos hopes to make this a statewide move towards bigger issues.

“People have hope in this organization, so personally I will continue to work for it,” she said. “So in the future, this is just the start of more important things to come.”

The first meeting in early 2021 consisted of around eight people. But the group has since spread to hundreds of people inside and outside Johnson County, according to Campos.

Campos said people have hope in Escucha Mi Voz to serve the community and bring about change in the state beyond the movement of workers excluded from the Fund to help Latinos and immigrants from other countries. This could include letting undocumented immigrants obtain driver’s licenses.

“Iowa needs a lot of change. Iowa is so late,” she said. “It’s not just about the check, it’s for more important things.”

In addition to launching Escucha Mi Voz, Campos said she would continue to fight for excluded workers to get help from local governments.

Campos and the Fund Excluded Workers Coalition recently showed up at town halls in West Liberty, Columbus Junction and Des Moines. The movement is also expanding nationwide with the states of New York, Washington, California and Colorado, as well as Washington, DC, creating a fund for excluded workers or providing additional assistance to those who have been excluded from previous stimulus payments.

Campos said she could use the money given to her by Johnson County to help pay her lawyer in her pending immigration case. This would help free up money for his other expenses.

“It doesn’t end here. There are a lot of things to fight for in this county for the Latino people,” she said. “We must continue to persevere to achieve all of our goals. “

George Shillcock is the Press-Citizen local government and development reporter covering Iowa City and Johnson County. He can be contacted at [email protected] and on Twitter @ShillcockGeorge

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