By Kenia Calderon
For the last 14 years, Iowa has been my home. When people ask if I plan to move away, I’m always shocked. Where else could I find such warmth and generosity? When I was a little girl who didn’t know a word of English, Iowans welcomed me. They taught me I had a voice — regardless of my legal status.
I am one of the nearly 3,000 DACA recipients living in Iowa. We cannot participate in the Iowa caucus on February 3rd. But that doesn’t mean we sit silent as presidential candidates pour attention into Iowa. My fellow Iowans need to understand how their decisions affect people they do not know.
The President has incredible power over my community. I owe it to immigrants everywhere to get our presidential candidates to see us, prioritize us and denounce the hate that surrounds us.
We need others to keep us in mind when they caucus and vote, too. Caucusing is a way to stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable communities. Caucusing for the right candidate can save lives.
While I can’t caucus and vote, I make sure others do. Information about how, when, and where to caucus has not always been accessible to Latino Iowans. Yet we can be the difference between the top two candidates. More than two-thirds of the estimated 194,432 Latinos in our state were born in the United States.
During the 2016 caucus, I had entire families sending me pictures at their precinct. Friends missed class to caucus on my behalf. I was overwhelmed with text messages asking about the process and the candidates. My community knew I needed to see them exercise their right — a right I don’t have yet.
Being visible and open about my DACA status has come with great responsibility. I’ve spent months researching the Democratic candidates because I know that on February 3rd, I will again be inundated with texts and questions.
After much consideration, I am certain that Senator Bernie Sanders is the best candidate for immigrants. He’s not our savior — he’s our fighter and advocate. He will end workplace raids like the one that shook Postville in 2007, and end the detention of children and separation of families.
As health care dominates this primary, undocumented immigrants are often left out of the conversation. I have witnessed immigrants avoid getting care due to fear and lack of resources. They see a doctor when they can no longer endure the pain and end up in emergency rooms. Senator Sanders will guarantee health care for all, regardless of income or immigrant status.
On February 3, 2020, I am confident Latino Iowans will caucus in large numbers for the best candidate for our community: Bernie Sanders. He will reverse the policies that have harmed immigrants and restore and expand DACA and TPS, allowing more people like me to continue to call Iowa my home — and to call all Iowans my neighbors.