Opinion | We need to stand up for Iowa’s immigrant population

With the recent threats to DACA, we need to advocate for Iowa’s immigrant population.


James Year

Supporters hold signs at the Old Capitol Building on Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. The recent decision regarding DACA’s rescission has been a highly controversial issue in national politics.

Yassie Buchanan, Opinions Columnist

Immigration in the U.S. has always been attacked, often using hateful and racist speech. Now, a federal district judge in Texas ruled against the DACA program and put it at risk for termination. Instead of attacking the minimal avenues of protection we have for immigrants, we should work towards better protecting this population.

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, program protects thousands of young adult immigrants in the U.S. from deportation and allows them to work in the states.

Miryam Antunez De Mayolo, an immigration attorney at catholic charities in Iowa has experience working with DACA applicants.

“DACA allows immigrants to legally work in the U.S. and travel abroad,” Antunez De Mayolo said. “I have clients whose only country they have known is this one, many don’t remember the language of their parents. I have had students who have wanted to travel in college or visit an ailing family member. DACA allows for all of this.”

DACA is not a means of gaining citizenship. It is merely a protection for immigrants who came here as children or young adults.

“There are numerous requirements DACA recipients must meet in order for the government not to deport the,  but it is not permanent and it does not allow people to be citizens,” Antunez de Mayolo said.

There are currently 2,420 active recipients  of DACA as of March 2020. With that, 2,920 people in Iowa have become recipients of DACA since 2012. People who already have DACA are still protected and able to renew their application. However, those applying for initial status in are not able to receive a decision

While this ruling has no effect on those already recipients of DACA, many people who wish to apply for status are held back. Removing DACA would be devastating for thousands of people in Iowa and across the country.

“Immigrant communities in Iowa are very close and a lot of the families have mixed status. A lot of DACA recipients are first interpreters for their parents and have been instrumental to helping their families get ahead. If they lost their ability to legally work the poverty level would go through the roof,” Antunez De Mayolo said.

In the media immigrants, mainly of color, are villainized and portrayed as burdens to this country. However, they continue to be exploited for work. Iowa’s meatpacking plants are largely staffed by Iowa’s immigrant population.

The Tyson meatpacking plant in Waterloo, Iowa is composed of people from Bosnia, Mexico, Burma, Liberia, as well as other African countries.

Working at these meatpacking plants is extremely hard and grueling work. While these workers were exploited, putting their lives at risk feeding the country, politicians are arguing over taking their rights away. There were over 400 cases of COVID-19 at this one plant and at least three deaths forcing them to temporarily close.

“Immigrants are very hardworking in general. That is why they come to the US and do jobs most native people don’t want to,”Antunez De Mayolo said.

We need to stop perpetuating harmful stereotypes and misconceptions about immigration in this country, which leads to the displacement of these communities.

“When you talk to Iowans they think immigrants are Mexicans and get paid by the government and don’t work, ” Antunez de Mayolo said.

It is easy to think of Iowa as a largely white state that does not need to worry about these issues. However, we have a robust immigrant population. They deserve to feel safe and welcomed in this country. In order to do that, we need to stop perpetuating harmful stereotypes and misconceptions and upholding programs that protect immigrants.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.