Day Without Immigrants Des Moines March

Feb 17, 2017

Hundreds of Iowans participated in Des Moines’s “Day Without Immigrants” march, an event that was one of many taking place around the country yesterday. 

The march is designed to highlight the importance of immigrant labor to the US economy. Dozens of Latino-owned businesses closed and people took off work to make the point that immigrants provide an important source of labor, often by taking on low-pay, backbreaking jobs many US citizens don’t want.

Credit Sarah Boden/IPR

The Des Moines march began at La Placita, a business center in east Des Moines frequented by Spanish speakers, and culminated outside the state capitol. People carried signs with sayings like "We Pay Taxes Too" and "Stop HF 265," a bill in the state legislature that bars state and local law enforcement agencies from enacting certain policies that would be protective of undocumented immigrants. 

Marcher Zoami Calles-Rios Sosa of Webster City was born in Mexico. Today she's a farmer and computer network administrator. Sosa says businesses in Webster City and the surrounding area wouldn’t survive without immigrants.

"Just in Main Street, we have like about 200 immigrants that work on our main street alone," she says. "If they were to be gone, businesses would close. There’s a couple of them that just depend on immigrants."

Many participates also say they were marching to protest against the possibility of forced deportation, which often separates families.

Fast food restaurant worker, 21-year-old Luis Carrillo of Des Moines came to the US as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico when he was a kid. He now has legal residency though the Obama-era DACA program, but Carrillo worries the Trump Administration will force him to leave.

Credit Sarah Boden/IPR

"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," says Carrillo. "We all live in this fear."  

Carrillo says if he had to go back to Mexico, his life would be chaos because he’d either have to join a drug cartel or starve, because poverty is so widespread. 

According to Census data, nearly five percent of Iowa’s population is foreign-born.