Rallying together

Around 50 marched to congressman’s office in support of DACA

Photo by Jenny Kirk Signs were held up by many who took part in the DACA support march on Wednesday in Marshall. Led by Southwest Minnesota State University Club Latino members, about 50 walked from the campus Religious Center to Rep. Collin Peterson’s office at the Market Street Mall to deliver petitions asking for his support on the passage of a clean Dream Act in the near future.

MARSHALL — With a tight grip on their values as well as their handmade signs, about 50 people braved the bitterly-cold elements on Wednesday to show support for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and the bipartisan bill referred to as the Dream Act of 2017.

Despite the windchill making the temperature feel about 5 degrees, they joined together at the Religious Center on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University to march to Congressman Collin Peterson’s local office at the Market Street Mall.

SMSU junior and Club Latino member Karina Gaona said she thought it was a great turnout.

“It doesn’t matter that it was cold out as long as we could do this,” Gaona said. “If it makes a difference, then it’s worth it.”

Gaona said she isn’t a Dreamer — the name given to the DACA recipients who are undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — but she does support the Dream Act.

“I do have family and friends who are being greatly affected by this whole thing,” she said. “So I want to help them as much as I can.”

Most of the people in attendance seemed to feel the same way. Rick Herder, associate professor of communications studies at SMSU, said he came to support the students who are DACA recipients.

“I think it’s important to support them,” Herder said. “They’re living in the shadow of uncertainty, and they need a road to get their educations and they need to be able to live with some certainty.”

When President Donald Trump ended DACA in September, he left nearly 800,000 Dreamers to face an unknown future — a future that could mean deportation.

“People are living in fear out there and it’s not fair,” SMSU student Marvin Guido said. “The flag here gives a lot of hope to people around the world, so for people coming here and facing this situation, it’s tough. So I’m just showing support.”

While Trump pulled the plug on DACA, which was President Barack Obama’s signature immigration policy, he left Congress a window to act. If Congress fails to do so by March 6, the Dreamers would likely lose their protected status within two years, depending on when their permits expire.

As people began to gather around noon, they had the opportunity to sign the petition, which along with the rally, was organized by Club Latino, Marshall Area Peace Seekers (MAPS) and a few other community members. MAPS member Darwin Dyce then surprised the group by announcing that they’d received a response from Rep. Peterson. Till then, they felt Peterson had been silent about the issue.

“We emailed them more than a week for the event, but they were unable to be (at the office),” Dyce said. “But we were ready for that because that happens. But (Wednesday), one of the people from his office in Washington sent this letter to us. So I’ll just read what he has to say.”

Peterson said he regretted that he could not be in Minnesota to meet with everyone directly and to address some of their concerns. He noted that the House of Representatives was in session and there were upcoming votes taking place on a number of issues important to Minnesota.

“Inaction in Congress on immigration policy has led us down a path that is both morally and legally unacceptable,” Dyce said, reading from Peterson’s letter. “It is bad for families, businesses and the safety of our communities. The actions by the White House have only exacerbated this situation for many families. I believe that changes to our immigration system should be focused on solutions, not creating additional problems.

“Additionally, those who were brought to the U.S. as children, raised as Americans and are studying or working legally should not be the targets of policy. The current uncertainty over their status is not right and only a bipartisan solution will bring the long-term certainty needed so people can plan their lives and be productive members of society.”

In the letter, Peterson commended their efforts to bring the issue to the forefront of the national dialogue. He added that he’s hopeful that the status of Dreamers can be address as soon as possible and that he looks forward to reviewing the petitions and working with them to find a common sense solution to the problems.

As people marched up McLaughlin Drive to Jewett Street and then to the mall, they held up signs. One of those read “We are all immigrants,” while a few others said “proud to welcome immigrants and refugees.”

Rosemary Martin’s sign said “Immigrants do pay taxes. Rumors to the contrary are false.” Her husband Mike’s sign said “No ban. No wall.”

One side of Gaona’s sign said “It’s not a dream. It’s my life,” while the other side read “Are you pro-life?”

After reaching Peterson’s office, everyone gathered around and listened to a few short narratives about how DACA affects them. Then Dyce shared why Congress needs to protect Dreamers by enacting the Dream Act of 2017 and why they need to do so without making them into political bargaining chips.

Dyce then shared the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s values-driven immigration policy.

“So the Friends Committee on National Legislation is led by the scriptural call to welcome the stranger,” Dyce said. “We seek congressional immigration reforms that recognize the gifts, contributions and struggles of immigrants to ensure equity and justice for all. And SMSU’s Club Latino and the Marshall Area Peace Seekers and a lot of the community folks that have joined here (Wednesday) feel the same way. We’re in solidarity with that mission”

The FCNL believes the nation’s immigration policies should: “keep families together, bring accountability and community engagement to border policies, create a path to lawful status and citizenship, protect all workers regardless of immigration status, align immigration enforcement with humanitarian values, preserve the human and civil rights of all immigrants, end mass incarceration of immigrants and uphold international and U.S. law obligations to protect refuges, asylum seekers and survivors of human trafficking.”

Then as people sang “Silent Night,” a handful of others shared personal messages — the typed up messages were later taped next to Peterson’s door. After Francis Eastman sang a Native American prayer song while beating on a drum, the petitions were slid under the door.

“One way we thought we might get the point across was for the group to be singing ‘Silent Night’ in the background as people said things like ‘What do you mean Silent Night when my mom or dad can just be swept away?’ or other reasons why all isn’t calm, things like that,” Dyce said. “We’re trying to capture the craziness and inhumanity of it all.”