New Legislation Makes Iowa’s DACA Recipients Hopeful

Iowa immigration advocates and a rally in support of DACA on November 12, 2019. Photo by Tar Macias / Hola Iowa

By Kassidy Arena, Iowa Public Radio News

Many recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in Iowa say they support the introduction of a new bill in Congress. It would allow a path to citizenship.

The bipartisan bill was introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. It would allow immigrants who came to the United States as children to apply for permanent resident status and eventually, citizenship.

Gabby Guerra, an Iowa DACA recipient.

It’s estimated more than 2,000 DACA recipients live in Iowa. Although legislation was just recently introduced, some DACA recipients in the state said they have renewed hope for their status in the U.S. Gabby Guerra is a DACA recipient in Des Moines. She said she is glad she has “some sense of hope,” but still has reservations.

“I’m still a little worried that we won’t have enough support or that we won’t get enough people supporting it and elevating it, so I think it’s really important that we spread the word and that we’re doing the advocacy on our part to make sure that we’re getting our voices heard and people on our side to make sure that this changes,” Guerra said.

She and others said they want Congress to refrain from adding new provisions to the bill and pass it through as is. She said she fears that some lawmakers may add amendments to the bill, which could include more funding for ICE and increasing security at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We know that our border is already highly militarized, so we can’t keep throwing money at it making things worse and putting families at risk,” Guerra said. “All of that is causing separations with families, causing deep issues for years to come, right? We haven’t seen all of the trauma that’s being created in our immigrant community.”

The new bill would not apply to older DACA recipients who are now close to or in their forties, like Antonia Rivera. Even though this bill would not apply to her status, she said it does open a door for more comprehensive immigration reform that could help other immigrants who do not qualify for DACA.


“It’s not okay, it’s not enough to just say hey, support the Dream Act or support comprehensive immigration reform because those definitions mean different things to different people,” Rivera said. “It’s important to be creative and also offer other solutions and be intentional in sharing our stories.”

David Calderon is also a DACA recipient. He said it’s been tough having an uncertain future in the country, especially during the Trump administration. But he said he thinks there will be more positive legislation that affects people like him during the Biden administration.


“A passage of a law that would bring peace of mind to myself, to my two sisters who are also DACA recipients, to my cousins who are DACA recipients, would definitely have a great impact on my life and would definitely increase the quality of that life,” Calderon said.


He said the U.S. has a responsibility to its immigrant community to ensure they have a better future, like the one they sought when they originally came to the country.

Berenice Nava said the reintroduction of the Dream Act gives her some relief, but it comes along with some survivor’s guilt.

“Seeing now that the Dream Act has been reintroduced feels good that possibly more people will benefit from this, but I would also like something bigger so that other people who have been here longer than us can benefit from it,” Nava said. “Because there’s been people who have been here more than 20, 25 years who deserve that relief.”

Overall, the DACA recipients said they just want whatever immigration reform the Biden administration has in store to be as inclusive to all immigrants as possible.

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