“We are having another May 1st rally this year,” Jose Alvarado told me a few months ago, about the event in support of immigration reform.
During my conversation with Jose, I had a flashback from fifteen years ago, when I participated in “A Day Without Immigrants” rally. In 2006 people gathered around the country, including here in Iowa, to make their voices heard and protest over a proposed change to U.S. immigration policy, known as HR4437, which would raise penalties for illegal immigration and classify undocumented people and any person who aid them in entering or remaining in the U.S. as felons.
In February 2017, another march was organized in Des Moines in response to yet another anti-immigrant “sanctuary cities” bill, SF481. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into a law. In essence the new law requires local law enforcement to comply with any instruction made in a detainer request to hold people without a warrant or probable cause of crime. Noncompliance would include the possibility of losing state funding.
Thousands of immigrants, mostly Latinos, gathered at the Iowa Capitol to let the governor know how damaging and unwelcoming SF481 was for new Iowans and Iowa in general.
Rallies around immigration have grown over time. The Trump years intensified the efforts to bring the issue to the forefront of the nation and local governments. Today, with a change in the administration, immigrants are determined to advance their quest for immigration reform.
As Jose and board members of Latinx Immigrants of Iowa prepare for the upcoming event, their press release reveals a strong coalition of nonprofit organizations and a purpose to mobilize not only Latinos but also allies with a message: “Immigration reform, it’s not a political matter, it’s a human matter.”
The hope is for these words reach President Biden and leaders here in Iowa.
They also have specific requests that include:
- A long overdue Comprehensive Immigration Reform
- Pass the American Dream & Promise Act
- Stop deportation and end the detention of migrant families
- End Trump’s detrimental asylum policies
“Ending Trump’s policies is a positive step, but it is not enough” read their press release.
Jose has played a pivotal role as founder of Latinx Immigrants of Iowa, and as May 1st approaches, he told me: “This event will be in hopes of bringing together our entire Immigrant community and our allies in solidarity calling on President Biden and congress to act now.”
He also expressed gratitude for support received by allies, yet his call is for them to go out and vote for candidates who care about immigrant communities, that will fight for equity, and will support and immigration reform.
“Our people are hardworking people, they are only seeking a better life for themselves and their kids, and they need to be acknowledged.”
Manny Galvez, another member of the board and an entrepreneur from Eastern Iowa, stated that back in 2017 activists and organizers in the Latino community sensed and prepared for a Trump administration that had relentlessly attacked Latinos and immigrants.
“It is also important to mention that we as Latinos do this without a political party or ideology, we do this because it is about humanity,” Galvez said. “In our communities I don’t think there’s any Latino that doesn’t have a family member or a friend that is undocumented, so when we do these rallies, we are thinking about those who have been living in this country for twenty to thirty years without documents, or they had their kids born here, so this is personal, that’s our motivation.”
Although the coalition has several demands, the main solution to most issues faced by immigrants can be address by reforming the countries’ archaic immigration laws.
“Our people cannot continue in this country with temporary fixes, and independently of who’s in the presidency, we need to demand a permanent solution,” Galvez said. “We need to learn from our history, and we cannot believe or assume that because we have a president that it is a Democrat, it is going to fix our problems. We have to learn from the experience in 2006 when we all thought we were going to have a pro-immigrant president.”
Latinx Immigrants of Iowa and supporting organizations are also demanding a closer look at the operations, creation and purpose of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement — ICE agency. Their recent record includes the detention and deportation of thousands of immigrants, including minors. According to United we Dream, there have been 302,072 deportations under the Biden-Harris administration.
The Trump administration and other elected officials, such as former Iowa Congressman Steven King and Iowa’s Gov. Reynolds, have shown nothing but contempt, even hatred towards Latino immigrants, yet the community persists. Latinos risk a lot, leaving their homelands, escaping violence and persecution in order to find a better future, with the sheer determination to survive.
“We call our allies and friends to join us this Saturday May 1st at 12:00 pm at the Iowa State Capitol (1007 E. Grand Ave.) to support your neighbors, your friends, your employees, those who put food on your table, or clean your hotel rooms when you are vacationing; join us and let us know we are not alone,” Alvarado said.
These efforts remind me of the United Farm Workers of America motto that is often used by other activists’ “Si Se Puede” mi gente! Yes, We Can.
**To attend the rally please wear a facemask and bring only U.S. flags.
by Claudia Thrane
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