Thousands of people took part in a march around the state Capitol in Des Moines today as part of the nationwide “Day Without Immigrants” movement.
Organizers says dozens of Latino-owned businesses in Iowa’s capital city closed for the day to show the importance of immigrants to the state’s economy. Jessica Velasquez, who moved to Des Moines one year ago, says immigrants are being unfairly portrayed as criminals.
“We know there are bad people, but not all of us are bad, you know? We have bad people in all communities,” Velasquez says. Hector Gucman, Velasquez’s husband, is working for a family-owned painting business. The couple has a 16-month-old son and moved to Iowa from Faribault, Minnesota to be closer to family. Velasquez says many immigrants, who aren’t legal U.S. citizens, are living in fear of being deported and separated from their families.
“Most people say ‘if they don’t want us to be citizens, that’s okay. Just let us work legally here and stay with our families.’ That’s all we’re asking, let our families stay together,” Velasquez says. Twenty-one-year-old Luis Carrillo who works at a fast-food restaurant in Des Moines, came to the U.S. illegally Mexico when he was a kid, though he now has legal residency though the Obama-era DACA program. Carrillo worries the Trump Administration will force him to leave.
“Having to wake up every day, not knowing what my future is going to be like…having to go to work and not knowing if I’m going to continue to work legally or illegally. It’s a fear. Not just me, my parents, my brothers, my sisters. We all live in this fear,” Carrillo said. If he had to go back to Mexico, Carrillo said his life “would be chaos” because he’d either have to join a drug cartel or starve, because poverty is so widespread.
(Sarah Boden of Iowa Public Radio also contributed to this story)