By Kassidy Arena, Iowa Public Radio News
The people marching to the Capitol interwove Spanish and English as they walked from La Placita on East Grand, but they shout one phrase in unison:
¡Si se puede!
They’re using the slogan of the United Farm Workers of America, founded by civil rights activist César Chávez, to protest the nation’s current immigration policies.
Jesús Colunga was among the marchers. The 28-year-old spoke in Spanish.
“I believe immigrants have opportunity just like any American born here. We didn’t cross the border, rather, the border crossed us,” Colunga said.
He said immigration reform is important for Iowa because it affects people living here, whether they are U.S. citizens or not.
The demonstrators acknowledged some positives from President Joe Biden’s administration, but want Biden to remember his promise to provide more pathways to citizenship. They also want lawmakers to support legislation that offers more protections to asylum-seekers.
Many added they want to abolish the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and end deportations.
Joe Henry, political director of the Iowa League of United Latin American Citizens, listed the bills they want passed:
- The American Citizenship Act, which creates an eight-year pathway to citizenship for some undocumented individuals.
- The American DREAM & Promise Act, which makes DREAMers and people with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) eligible for permanent residence.
- The Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, which provides a status for undocumented essential workers.
- The SECURE Act, which creates a pathway to citizenship for TPS holders.
Natalie Andrade held one of the banners for the march with her parents. She wants the state’s congressmen and women to know immigration policies affect everyone, including Iowans. Her parents are from Mexico, and now they live in Marshalltown.
“I’m very emotional about what is happening at the southern border is a huge crisis, not just humanitarian, but I feel like it’s going to security and financial crisis,” Andrade said.
In response to Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ refusal to accept unaccompanied migrant children, Andrade said “that’s crazy to me. Because if you have power to speak up, to make a change, you should be using your power to represent the people.”
The 15-year-old wants more people from her generation to get involved in knowing the country’s immigration policies.
“I really hope that my generation and youth don’t shy away from these conversations. Because I know a lot of people around me feel like ‘what can I do? What can I say? They won’t listen to me. I’m just a child,'” Andrade explained. “And I think I’m participating and getting informed about these things [that] really matter. It shows that we are here, that we are present, that we care.”
The Reforma Migratoria Ahora (Immigration Reform Now) march was organized by a board coalition including the grassroots advocacy group Latinx Immigrants of Iowa. Their event was supported and endorsed by 14 other organizations.
Photos by Tar & Erika Macias / Hola Iowa