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Residents march, rally in support of Dreamers

On a cold, damp afternoon in Newton, the Rev. Jessica Petersen’s voice rang out as clear as a bell. Petersen, the pastor at Newton’s Congregational United Church of Christ, was singing as she walked along with more than 20 other Jasper County residents who marched to the Jasper County Courthouse to show their support for DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

There are nearly 700,000 DACA “Dreamers” residing the United States, but many are worried these individuals, brought to the United States as children, may risk being deported if they are not allowed to renew their status.

“Tell me, tell me, what do you see, I see love in the community,” Petersen sang, as the rest of group joined in.

Despite a recent Supreme Court ruling, DACA supporters say the fight is far from over. President Trump terminated the program, leaving applicants with a six month grace period to renew their applications before risking deportation. The deadline would have been March 5. On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to take the case, leaving the issue for the lower courts to decide. A ruling issued by federal District Judge William Alsup of the US District Court for the Northern District of California blocked the Trump administration’s termination of DACA, forcing the administration to continue to accept renewal applications from Dreamers. Monday’s ruling from the Supreme Court will keep the case in the lower courts, although the Court could take up the issue next year.

A Des Moines Register poll taken earlier this year shows the majority of Iowans support a path towards citizenship for illegal immigrants, including Dreamers, but legislators have offered competing proposals. Loebsack, the lone Democrat in Iowa’s congressional delegation, criticized Trump’s move to terminate DACA, calling it “disheartening.”

“Instead of playing political games, it is time Congress got to work on passing pragmatic, tough and fair immigration reform that enforces the rule of law, secures our borders and ensures accountability while not dividing this country and tearing children away from families,” he said in a statement.

Both of Iowa’s Republican senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst have introduced a Secure and Succeed Act, which offers DACA recipients a path towards citizenship, while also allocating $25 billion for border security. Ernst said lawmakers need to find a solution for DACA.

“We must ensure a path forward for those who were brought here through no fault of their own as children, while also enforcing our laws, putting an end to illegal immigration and strengthening our border security. This framework is a step toward addressing the legal, economic and security concerns that are present in the current debate and the unique challenges that the DACA-eligible population faces, and I urge my colleagues to support this proposal,” Ernst said.

The controversial proposal would also end chain migration, as well as the diversity visa lottery program, a proposal opposed by Democrats. In calling for a “Clean Dream” act marchers hope to continue to press lawmakers to ensure the security of dreamers.

At Wednesday’s rally, DACA supporters said Ernst’s legislation is unfair, instead, they want to see a “clean dream act” that doesn’t involve paying for a border wall with Mexico. Petersen said Dreamers shouldn’t be considered “bargaining chips” for lawmakers.

“This is about who we want to be as a nation,” Petersen said. “We need a Clean Dream Act so they can get on with living their lives.”

Newton resident Linda Wormley also spoke at Wednesday’s rally. Wormley, whose daughter-in-law is a DACA recipient, talked about the challenges Dreamers face while living in the United States. Wormley said Dreamers are reluctant to identify themselves publicly or speak out, for fear they’ll be ostracized in their communities. Wormley said many immigrants were drawn to Iowa by billboards promising work in the meatpacking industry, she believes these companies should bear some responsibility for the fate of the Dreamers.

“There were billboards, encouraging people to cross the river,” Wormley said. “This is the capitalists’ fault, it’s another form of human slavery.”

While Wormley said the Supreme Court’s decision was “a step in the right direction” she believes voters still need to keep pushing legislators to support a Clean Dream Act that will give DACA recipients a clear pathway to citizenship. Until that legislation comes to pass, Wormley said supporters will keep making sure their voices are heard. Wormley urged voters to consider the Dreamer’s perspective and the challenges they’ve faced.

“Yes, it was a piece of paper, maybe if you’ve never cheated on your taxes or gotten a speeding ticket, then maybe you can say something,” Wormley said. “These are good people.”

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or

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