Palomares Social Justice Center was named after a building (since torn down) that is an important part of the history of the Mexican immigrants in Moline. Palomares, which in English means ‘the dove house’, was the first home of many recently arrived migrants to the area. The evacuation of the building under unclear circumstances put a number of people in the street, despite the efforts of community activists to follow more humane –and legal- procedures. As former Augustana College student Andrew Shaffer and professor Araceli Masterson-Algar researched the sudden closing of this building, it became even clearer that it was not only part of immigrant history, but also a symbol of the need for social justice.
The Palomares Social Center emerged for those who do not feel they have a space. It is an initiative from members of the community with long social ties to the area, and particularly to the Floreciente neighborhood, to create a safe environment for those residents in extreme situations of vulnerability, often tied to an undocumented status. The center’s objectives are to provide immediate attention and referral, gain the trust of those the most vulnerable residents of the community, and collaborate with other organizations nationwide to document violations of human rights, and take a pro-active stand for social justice.
Current community liaisons, in addition to years of collaboration with the area’s Mexican and Mexican-American residents, have decades of experience working for various organizations tied to Palomares’ social justice mission: housing needs, property rights, labor rights, families and foster care, public health, and education. Despite its recent beginning, those involved in the Palomares Social Justice Center have registered an average of five cases per day. Each of these cases is a human story that illustrates the urgency for migration reform: split families and abandoned children due to inhumane detention and deportation practices, residents who after years of work and dedication find themselves in extreme poverty due to housing and labor contracts that fed on their undocumented status, people with need for urgent care who refuse to go to a doctor for fear of deportation, and others who barely leave the house and are prisoners in the city where they live and work.