Some may not immediately connect Iowa and immigration, but 37,000 undocumented immigrants call the state their home, and contribute tens of millions of dollars every year in local and state taxes.
According to 2013 Des Moines Register polling, 77% of Iowans support immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
These immigrants — including undocumented Iowans — are an important part of keeping Iowa communities resilient and sustainable. In fact, while Iowa has been growing at a slower rate than the rest of the nation, the Rural Family Economic Success Network estimates that nearly 40% of all new rural Iowans are Latino.
But more importantly, stats and figures aside, it’s immigrants — particularly DREAMers — who are quickly becoming leaders in their state, and driving the immigration conversation on a national level.
DREAM Iowa, a group founded by sisters Monica Reyes, Nilvia Brownson, and their friend Hector Salamanca, is proof positive.
Right now, the group is just days away from hosting several Presidential candidates, including Martin O’Malley, in a historic forum on immigration, and have just debuted a brand new mini-documentary, “Every DREAMer Has A Story,” about the DREAMer leaders who call Iowa home.
The youth have already won some relief for themselves in the form of DACA, which provides them with work permits and protection from deportation. But, now they are fighting to win the same kind of relief for their parents, families, and communities.
“All of my monumental moments in life have been here in the US,” said Nilvia. “I met the person I plan to spend the rest of my life here. I had my daughter here. I graduated from high school here. I had my quinceañera — which is a coming-of-age celebration — here.”
“Everything in my life, from my first bullying experience, to my first love, my first heartbreak, everything has been here. So I would never consider any country my home,” she said.
It’s a must-watch, and incredibly inspiring.