STORY BY LAUREN VELASCO
Undocumented students known as “Dreamers” are advocating for their right to vote as the next election season nears.
Drake alum Hector Salamanca, Drake senior Kenia Calderon and immigration advocate Erica Johnson spoke on October 27 about this issue and what they’re doing for the cause.
“I try to educate people on why it’s so important, especially voters, because I wish I could vote and I wish I could caucus. But I can’t,” Calderon said.
Calderon and the rest of La Fuerza Latina, a student organization on campus that connects Drake’s Latino culture to each other and the community, work on bringing these issues to the forefront both in Des Moines and at a national level.
The Dreamers are part of the reason that in 2012, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA) was created and granted rights to undocumented young adults.
DACA provides deportation relief to young undocumented people, allowing them to stay in the U.S. and pursue their education just as Calderon and Salamanca have done.
At the local level, Dreamers have made a big impact at Drake.
There is now an option on the domestic student application that gives students an option to identify themselves in the application as undocumented/DACA.
This is a big step for Drake, but Salamanca believes there is still more to do at the federal level, especially during the current political season, as many Dreamers speak out on the issues to current candidates.
“For us to be out here and outspoken it says that we are not afraid to engage (candidates), and to hold them accountable,” Salamanca said. “We need to make sure we address the inequalities that exist.”
Calderon has been speaking about these issues and attending political events to get the word out and ask candidates what they would do for the young generation of undocumented immigrants.
“If you come across a candidate, ask them about the issues you feel passionate about,” Calderon said, “Sometimes they don’t expect that from people our age, but I think Dreamers have changed that.”
Dreamers in Des Moines work closely with the American Civil Liberties Union, which immigration advocate Johnson is a part of.
“The ACLU works on civil issues,” Johnson said. “Typically we’ve been strong on the litigation front and protecting rights, but we’re also pretty active on the legislative front to pass policies.”
Dreamers hope to make these issues current and keep candidates talking about them. They also hope that students who have the power to vote, keep these issues in mind.
“Whether or not you care about the issues, you have a voice to elect the next president, even if you don’t think you have opportunities to make changes in the political system,” Salamanca said.