CEDAR FALLS — Rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program did not silence the so-called “Dreamers” — children brought to the United States by their immigrant parents. In fact, they’re voices have gotten louder.

Members of the group, who defenders note were “brought here through no fault of their own,” are tired of immigrants being divided by their status.

When Republican President Donald Trump announced a phase-out of DACA last week, those who qualify for the program spoke up for themselves, their 800,000 fellow DACA recipients and all 11 million immigrants living here without official status.

“We talk about Dreamers a lot. We say, ‘This is all they’ve ever known. They’ve built a life here. They are Americans in every sense of the word.’ But so is my mother,” said Nilvia Brownson, who was brought from Mexico at 14 months old and now has DACA status. “So, I am sick and tired of people demonizing our parents.”

She and sister Monica Reyes, both founders of Dream Iowa, have been here nearly 23 years. But so has their mother.

“She’s made a life here too. She’s your favorite waitress at your favorite restaurant,” Brownson said. “They all belong here. There are so many.”

Brownson was drowned out by applause before she could finish.

She was one of about a half-dozen speakers at a march for Dreamers Friday evening. More than 300 supporters marched through downtown Cedar Falls to the office of U.S. Rep. Rod Blum, R-1st District.

Blum supported Trump’s announcement, saying Democratic President Barack Obama overreached in creating the program, and immigration policy should be written by Congress. Iowa’s Republican Sens. Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst made similar statements.(tncms-asset)ebde68c2-2405-11e4-8973-00163ec2aa77[1](/tncms-asset)

The childhood immigrants have taken them up on that pronouncement. They agree Congress should act, and so do other advocates for a comprehensive immigration policy.

“We will no longer stand in silence, and we will no longer let our voices be shut down. This is a time where we must rise to be heard and to be courageous,” said Ashley Sanchez, president of the University of Northern Iowa chapter of Dream Iowa, called Panthers for Dream Iowa. “We will no longer accept the bare minimum, for the reason that it has set us up to fail. For decades, our people have been marginalized and discriminated against. But we are here to demand intelligent reform that includes all 11 million immigrants.”

Sanchez also was drowned out by applause.

Several speakers directly addressed Dreamers, encouraging them not to give up and saying they would stand beside them. Others were Dreamers, encouraging continued activism and a comprehensive immigration policy that welcomes them and their families and invites future generations of immigrants.(tncms-asset)99a1a25a-94f4-11e7-9746-00163ec2aa77[2](/tncms-asset)

“For too long myths about immigrants have served to divide us,” said Lisa Munoz of the Cedar Valley Advocates for Immigrant and Refugee Reform. “Now more than ever, it is imperative we base policy decision on facts not fears.”

Munoz said the United States has a long history of immigration but also a long history of welcoming only certain groups.

Marching from Gateway Park to Blum’s office, protesters chanted along the way. Cheers of “Education not deportation” and “No racism, no fear, immigrants are welcome here” echoed across the Parkade.

As they marched down Main Street, they heard applause and honks of support. Many people stopped to snap photos or videos.

But Thomas Kessler, coordinator of the Peace and Justice Center of the Cedar Valley, a ministry of the Cedar Falls Mennonite Church, told supporters simply showing up and chanting are not enough.

“May our steps now be followed by ongoing action and advocacy in the days ahead,” Kessler said.

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Staff Writer

Political reporter at the Courier

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