I, like many Iowans, hate politics. I can’t stand it when the dreams of people get trampled by petty political party infighting — especially when those dreams belong to my family, friends, and myself.
My family had been dreaming of May 19 our whole lives. For over two decades, we have been hiding in the shadows and Tuesday was the day that we were going to finally step out and become full members of our community.
May 19 was the day that the president’s Deferred Action for Parental Accountability (DAPA) program would have gone into effect. But thanks to a GOP politically motivated lawsuit, that day is on hold. Right now, the president’s new immigration programs are being held up in the courts, forcing millions of families to wait in a tumultuous legal limbo as a judge decides their fate. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but anti-immigrant extremists are blocking the path —for now.
Many of the Republicans leading the charge against families like mine came to Iowa May 16 for their cynically named Lincoln Dinner. Just days after Iowa Republicans spent a night celebrating the president who freed the slaves, millions of people, including my mother, are being forced to continue living and working in fear of being separated from their loved ones. Those who are the most affected by immigration policies, are dehumanized and left out of the decision-making.
I can’t help but wonder what the event’s namesake would think of the direction his party has taken. As each presidential hopeful takes the stage to preach the values of the Republican Party, I can only hope that Iowans, as well as the American people, recognize the stark contrast between a party that once abolished slavery, to one that seems increasingly set on institutionally oppressing a new class of people — the 11 million undocumented immigrants living within the United States.
As 2016 approaches, Republican candidates must be reminded of the families that hang in the balance as they continue their partisan attacks on President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. As an original recipient of 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), I have experienced firsthand the benefits of these programs, but my mother, who has sacrificed everything to provide a better life for me and my siblings, cannot. It pains me to watch my mother deteriorate slowly and painfully because of the lack of relief in a country she considers her home and where she has raised her most blessed gifts, her children.
DREAMers stand with people, especially our families, over politics — but we’re not afraid to engage politically. According to the Center for American Progress, 14,000 Iowans stand to benefit from the president’s policies.
The question that immigrants and allies here in Iowa will be asking presidential hopefuls is this: What happened to the party of Lincoln? The Republican Party can no longer ignore the families affected by their increased anti-immigrant attacks. One only has to listen to the congressman representing my district, the notorious Rep. Steve King, R-IA., to realize just how far the GOP has strayed from Lincoln’s ideals.
Once you dehumanize a group of people, through political slander and nonfactual information, you run the risk of exposing that group of people to below-humane standards. I see our undocumented community living through so many more struggles than a documented member would experience. We are undocumented, we know the struggle of fighting for a better future, we have established our life in small town America, we pledge allegiance to the American flag, and we are American in every way, except on paper.
While my mother and I are still restricted from exercising our right to vote this election cycle, I can assure you that when it comes time for my loved ones with citizenship to visit the polls, they won’t forget who stood up for our family and our community, and who stood in the way of our American dreams.
MONICA REYES is a DACA recipient from Waterloo and co-founder of Dream Iowa, a volunteer lead group that works to organize and empower the tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in Iowa. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org