SIOUX CITY | Around 40 people gathered outside the federal building in Sioux City Tuesday afternoon to object to the Trump administration’s decision to end legal protection for immigrants who illegally crossed the U.S. border with their parents as young children.
Critics say the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA threatens 800,000 undocumented immigrants across the U.S., including more than 3,000 in Iowa, with deportation. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions declared the Obama administration's program "an unconstitutional exercise of authority" that must be revoked.
The protest Tuesday echoed demonstrations nationwide that supported keeping the program, also known as the Dreamer Act.
The people outside the federal building at 320 Sixth St. held signs that read "Education Not Deportation" and "Dreamers make American great." Many of the chants and signs were met with honks and thumbs-up by passing cars.
"This decision by the President to rescind the DACA program is nonsensical, unnecessary and produces anxiety and terror in an already anxious and terrorized community," said the Rev. Ryan Dowell Baum, a Sioux City pastor. "As a person of faith, this issue is a no-brainer. There are a lot of issues that are pretty complicated in the Bible. Immigration is not one of them."
The administration is giving Congress six months to come up with a legislative fix before the government stops reviewing work permits for people already covered by the program.
Community activist Susan Leonard came to support those enrolled in DACA because most are contributing members of society, although it seems they don't reap the same benefits, she said.
"The Dreamers have all been responsible. Many of them are employed with good jobs and are highly educated ... They pay taxes but they have no eligibility, no path to citizenship, and they are not allowed to get Social Security or anything like that," Leonard said. "So they pay into our system and they get none of the benefits. We need to rewrite the Dream Act so there is a path to citizenship for these people."
The group encouraged those who support DACA to contact local legislators.
"I think the important thing for people (to do) who want to support the Dreamers, is to put pressure on our legislators because I think Republicans will see that it's political suicide not to do something positive for them," Leonard said.