Immigrant Advocates hone in on state politics


Lily Smith

UI grad student Farzad Salamifar poses for a portrait in the Main Library on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. Salamifar is an Iranian immigrant at the University of Iowa on a student visa. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Farzad Salamifar, an Iranian graduate student at the University of Iowa on a student visa, has faced complications since President Donald Trump imposed a travel ban earlier last year. His brother was naturalized in the U.S, but when his mother applied for a visa last fall, she was rejected.

Salamifar said a lot of Iranian students in the U.S. go five to six years without ever seeing their families.

“It shouldn’t be like that, because it looks like an exile,” he said.

Salamifar hopes that on Immigrant Advocacy Day, people advocate for the rights of Dreamers.

RELATED: UI student hit by Trump’s ban

Immigrant Advocacy Day, which takes place today at the Iowa Capitol, is an opportunity for attendees, along with the American Friends Service Committee-Iowa and Iowa CCI Action Fund, to speak to legislators at a state-level on immigrant issues.

“I hope that [the event] will raise some consciousness and some awareness,” Salamifar said. “The fabric of this society is so diverse, that this fear of the other has no place.”

Madeline Cano, a lead organizer for the event, hopes to lift up the voices of immigrants in America, because in her view, they are usually excluded from the table.

RELATED: Immigration hits home

Cano said she will talk to state legislators on such issues as the English-only law passed in 2002 that they hope to repeal. The law made English the official language of the state.

“To us, it’s subtle racism,” Cano said.

She said the sanctuary-cities bill is one that organizers will discuss at the event. Senate File 481 has added provisions and policies that eliminate security for undocumented immigrants, and Cano said the bill puts whole communities at risk.

“These folks are just as much Iowans as everybody else,” Cano said.

RELATED: Iowa City joins nationwide movement to keep immigration enforcement federal

Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, said the bill would heavily affect local law-enforcement officials, and that, he said, is overall a bad policy. Some economic-development groups also oppose this law, he said, because they recognize the importance of immigration to economic success.

One of the things that makes America great is its willingness to welcome refugees and immigrants, Hogg said, and America’s current atmosphere is a bad place for our country to be in.

Hogg also hopes that events such as Immigrant Advocacy Day will make constituents more comfortable with going to the Capitol and talking to their legislators.

“We need to have conversations about this issue across our state so that Republican campaigns can’t pull this issue out and scare people in October,” Hogg said.

RELATED: District seeks immigration board

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