DES MOINES, Iowa -- The future of 800,000 undocumented immigrants is now in the hands of the United States Supreme Court. On Tuesday, the high court heard arguments on President Donald Trump’s executive action to end the DACA program.
In response, thousands of people across the country rallied in different cities in support of the Dreamers, including dozens who gathered in front of the Iowa Judicial Branch Building.
Des Moines resident Kenia Calderon has been a recipient of DACA since the birth of the program under the Obama administration in 2012. She came into the country with her family in 2005, escaping extreme violence in El Salvador.
“I was able to get DACA my senior year in high school. My goal was always to be able to go to college and to be able to get a college degree. Without DACA, that was going to be a little bit harder,” said Calderon.
Three years ago, Calderon graduated from Drake University and now has a career in consulting, but she became extremely worried when DACA was rescinded in 2017 under the Trump administration.
“It has been a roller coaster of emotions,” said Calderon. “One day you feel like, OK, I'm not going to be able to renew again, and then a lawsuit happens and the judge decides that we are going to be able to renew.”
According to Homeland Security, there are 2,798 DACA recipients in Iowa. Currently, 1,400 of those have become parents to U.S. born children. Not only does this pose a threat of separation within families, but if the program disappears, DACA recipients would no longer be eligible for work permits, therefore, leaving these undocumented immigrants without a source of income.
“I don’t know what it’s going to be like if the Supreme Court does not uphold the program, but I know it’s going to be a disaster and it’s going to separate a lot of families in Iowa,” said Calderon.
Cecelia Martinez, another local DACA recipient, has always been aware that the program was meant to be temporary. Martinez was able to attend Simpson College and now works downtown but is hoping an agreement can be made in the form of a path to citizenship.
“DACA is temporary. It was meant to be temporary and so a lot of us are still going to need permanent long-term solutions for immigration and our families,” said Martinez. “We don’t want to stay with DACA forever. We want a path to citizenship.”
While the Supreme Court isn’t expected to make a decision until next year, Calderon is urging recipients to apply for renewal if needed. The American Friends Service Committee in Iowa is able to help any Dreamers who need assistance with his process.