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Taking action for immigration reform

Taking action for immigration reform

Published: May 10, 2013
Hector and others at Grassley town hall meeting in Boone

Iowa Dreamers and allies advocate for comprehensive immigration reform at a May town hall meeting in Boone, Iowa hosted by Senator Charles Grassley. From left: Antonia Rivera, Sandra Sanchez, Jan Flora, Hector Salamanca and Tess Boylan.

Photo: AFSC

By Sandra Sanchez

Several Dreamers and allies of the AFSC and its Dreamers Network have been working hard during the last month, taking action in support of a humane and fair immigration reform.

We visited with staff from Senator Harkin, Senator Grassley, and Rep. Latham’s offices. Hector Salamanca, our Youth Outreach Coordinator, did a presentation at McCombs Middle School, and Antonia Rivera went to Iowa City to speak in front of a small but very committed group of university students.

As part of our activities around May Day, we had a public demonstration at the Federal Building in Des Moines followed by a visit with Senator Grassley’s staff; Hector and Antonia spoke eloquently about the need for a humane immigration reform.

From there, several advocates drove to Boone, Iowa to take part in Senator Grassley’s town-hall meeting, attended mostly by white residents.

As some of us who could be identified as Latinos and as Hector and others started asking questions to the senator about his comments connecting the bombings in Boston to delays in the passage of immigration reform, I noticed that a sheriff deputy was called in.

As a couple more Latinos got in showing our posters asking for “Immigration Reform Now!,” yet a second sheriff deputy was called. None of that discouraged anyone. Hector kept pressing for clear answers from Senator Grassley.

For my part, I asked him, What would weigh more on your decision making, family unity or employers’ needs?” He beat around the bushes for a while. But then he asked, “Does that answer your question?”

I said no, and I repeated the question. Finally he said that both things had to be considered during the debates in the Congress.

Then, several members from churches and A Mid-Iowa Organizing Strategy (AMOS) asked for humane immigration reform, family unity, addressing root causes of migration and equal labor rights. It was as if they were talking from AFSC’s New Path”resource. Thanks to our allies for that!

Last, Antonia Rivera summed up the courage to introduce herself as an undocumented mother who would have to wait until she was in her forties to become a legal resident if the immigration bill passes as it is currently written.

“I am already a college graduate, and the mother of a baby girl,” Antonia told the senator. “I am ready to go. “How much longer do I have to wait?”

I could see Senator Grassley’s eyes getting a bit teary. That gives me hope that perhaps, if we keep at it, we can have acceptable immigration reform.

Sandra Sanchez directs AFSC Iowa’s Immigrants Voice Program in Des Moines.