Hector Salamanca speaks at the Deferred Action for Dreamers rally in Des Moines on July 21, 2012.Photo: Kathleen McQuillen
“Go ahead and dream!” was the rally cry for immigrants and allies who came together in Des Moines, Iowa, to celebrate President Obama’s order providing temporary relief from deportation to qualifying young undocumented immigrants.
The rally included a welcoming statement from Mayor Frank Cownie and a letter of support from Senator Tom Harkin, but it was young Dreamers—undocumented immigrant youth brought to the United States by their parents—who were the heart of the day’s events.
“The immigrant community has not had much to celebrate in a very long time—this is an important step,” noted a young Latina standing with friends. “We celebrate for each other but we continue to work for a permanent solution for all immigrants.”
Speaking to the crowd, a Dreamer named Hector said, “My family came to this country when I was three years old, looking for work for themselves and opportunities for their children. I know only this country. I am loyal only to this country. My family has worked hard for me to make it here—and now I am an honor student. I want my future to be here.”
Each story of struggle and success and each exhortation to continue the work brought cheers of approval from the energized crowd. Closing the rally, Manuel Catalan spoke of his flight from El Salvador in the 1980s and his subsequent struggle for security, opportunity, and inclusion in the United States. Now an associate pastor at Las Americas-United Methodist Church, Manuel reminded the crowd: “We all suffer, but working together we will succeed. We will bring justice to all immigrants and make our country better for it.”
Filled with new hope, young immigrants gathered at the information table to talk with volunteer attorneys and Jody Mashek, legal services director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Immigrant Voices Program in Des Moines, to learn about the new opportunities awaiting them.
The event was organized by AFSC and several co-sponsoring groups. To view more photos from the rally, click here.