Over 30 Latinos from across the state came together at the Iowa State Capitol on the morning of Thursday March 3 to speak with legislators about key issues impacting Latino and immigrant communities.
Coming off a wave of energy from the Iowa caucuses, many Latinos and allies wanted to continue the momentum by focusing their efforts on state legislation and upcoming local elections.
“This is where real, meaningful change happens,” said Madeline Cano, an organizer for Iowa CCI Action Fund. “It’s important that our legislators see affected people and hear our stories about how these pieces of legislation truly impact Latino and immigrant communities across Iowa.”
The event, organized by ACLU of Iowa and Iowa CCI Action Fund, began bright and early with a discussion on four specific bills that could have both positive and negative effects on Latinos and immigrants. The group lobbied legislators on four specific bills:
- Racial profiling bill (SF 2267) which defines and prohibits discriminatory policing, requires data collection, and creates an outside board to advise on the problem of discriminatory policing.
- Warrantless detention bill (HF 2276) which prohibits local law enforcement agencies from declining to partner with Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents detaining residents without a warrant while ICE investigates them, and provides no additional funds for law enforcement, leaving departments and taxpayers to fund these efforts. Click here to take action against this bill.
- Temporary Driver’s Licenses bills (SB 1092 & HF 2318) which provides a 2 year temporary driver’s license for eligible immigrants. It also promotes safety and saves money by ensuring that all Iowa driver’s are tested, licensed, and insured. A recent poll shows that 58% of Iowans favor the implementation of temporary visitors driver’s licenses.
- Wage theft (SF 398) which creates positions for more investigators at Iowa Workforce Development, the agency that investigates employers that illegally withhold a person’s earnings. It also requires employers to provide written documentation of employment including form of payment. These measures would discourage employers from committing wage theft and protect employees in the case that it does happen.
Among the attendees was Vanessa Marcano-Kelly, a Venezuela native and CCI Action member. She says that as members of the community it’s important to make our voices heard since these laws affect our community directly.
“It is especially important because Latino voices are underrepresented in terms of state representatives and senators,” added Marcano-Kelly. “It’s important not just to complain but to do something about it and participate in democracy.”
Other advocates participated in Thursday’s gathering as well including Jocelyn Hernandez, a domestic abuse advocate with Assault Care Center Extending Shelter & Support (ACCESS). She felt strongly that two bills would have big effects on her clients.
“The warrantless detention bill (HF 2276) will affect how and if victims of domestic violence or sexual assault will report their abuse to police. And the temporary driver’s license bills will make it easier for my clients to attend work or meetings with attorneys, counselors, doctors, etc.”
Iowa CCI Action Fund and the ACLU of Iowa will continue to monitor the progress of these bills and keep activists and advocates aware of future opportunities. The group will continue to lobby legislators and encourage more Latino and immigrant community members to join them.
“Yesterday was my first day lobbying but it definitely won’t be my last,” says Silvia Flores of Des Moines. “This is our house.”