Advocates for comprehensive immigration reform met with U.S. Rep. Tom Latham and staff at his Des Moines office on May 10, 2013. Hector Salamanca, AFSC Latino Youth Organizer, set up the meeting, and Sandra Sanchez, AFSC Iowa Immigrants Voice Program Director, facilitated a follow-up discussion.
“The fact that you can meet your representative so easily should motivate people to do it,” Hector said. He described Rep. Latham as having a calm, down-to-earth demeanor and a good sense of humor.
Others agreed that Rep. Latham was easy to talk with and that he made a good connection with each participant.
“This was a really different dynamic than what I’ve experienced in California or Chicago,” said one Dreamer. “People can be very mean elsewhere.” The group agreed that it’s good that people are nice to each other here; bipartisan support, after all, will be necessary to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Sandra reminded the group, however, that in the end what really matters is how members of Congress vote. Will they exercise their influence to help people, or not?
She observed that Rep. Latham seems to be waiting right now and is not heavily involved in immigration discussions. His staff has invited AFSC to help turn out people for a tele-town hall meeting, which is promising.
Sandra also mentioned the need to understand how politics and many politicians work. Following a discussion with immigrant advocates at a recent Boone town hall meeting, Senator Charles Grassley introduced a large number of anti-immigrant amendments to the Senate immigration bill.
She encouraged people not to get their hopes too high, but also not to be discouraged from continuing. “If we keep the dialogue open,” Sandra said, “they might eventually hear something that will change their minds about the issue.”
The group agreed to keep reaching out to people directly affected by immigration law and to invite in other allies. Meanwhile, as Hector said, “I want to put a face on the Iowa movement for reform. We need to get other Latinos involved and stand up for ourselves.”