Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice rallies at Capitol

DES MOINES — Leaders of the Iowa Migrant Movement for Justice are lobbying against bills Republicans have introduced in the Iowa legislature.

Vanessa Marcano-Kelly led a rally at the Iowa Capitol Wednesday. “Every election year they attack immigrants and lean into misinformation and fear to try and mobilize their voters,” she said.

One bill would require all Iowa companies to use the federal government’s E-Verify system to check whether employees are citizens or legal residents. Another would block undocumented immigrants who’ve graduated from an Iowa high school from being eligible for in-state tuition at community colleges or the three state universities. Twenty-seven-year-old Cecilia Martinez said she’s lived in Iowa for 26 years, graduated from an Iowa high school and, with federal deferred action on her immigration status, she was able to graduate from a state university.

“Immigrants, refugees, whatever the status is, we do contribute to this state,” she said. “We continue to the economy. We contribute to our communities.”

The group objects to a third bill that would make it a felony to use a vehicle, boat or plane in Iowa to hide an undocumented immigrant from authorities. Louis Gomez, who’s lived in Iowa since 2001, was an undocumented immigrant for the first 10 years he lived in the state.

“I am now a soccer coach at a local high school and my soccer team, 90% of them come from an immigrant family or are immigrants themselves,” he said. “…This bill would put me at risk of being charged with a Class B felony…for doing my job as a soccer coach and driving kids from practice back to school.”

Republicans who back the bills say if the federal government won’t enforce immigration laws, the state will and the taxpayers of Iowa should not have their money going to people who are not here legally.