By Matthew Patane - desmoinesregister.com
A small group of Iowans will head to Washington, D.C., later this month to protest the Obama administration's deportations of immigrants coming into the U.S. illegally.
"If you don't stand up for what you believe in you shouldn't ask anybody else to stand up," said Carla Dawson, one of the 10 Iowans.
Members of Iowa's Latino and faith communities held a rally Monday night at Trinity United Methodist Church, 1548 Eight St., to send off Dawson and the other nine Iowans joining in the protest.
Organizers of the group said they plan to commit "civil disobedience" and be arrested in front of the White House.
Dawson, a teacher from Des Moines, said she is going to Washington, D.C., because she does not think the U.S. should turn away children who come to the country looking for hope and a better life.
"They're coming here to escape violence, to escape poverty. That's why people come to the United States," said Dawson, 49.
The Obama administration has come under fire by faith and immigrant-support groups for its policies of deporting immigrants coming to the nation illegally while also pushing for legislation that would create a "pathway to citizenship."
Monday's rally also served as a call from faith leaders to counter comments by Gov. Terry Branstad that Iowa should not welcome immigrant children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.
"Gov. Terry Branstad has made statements that these children from Central America are not welcome in Iowa. That simply is not true," said Connie Ryan Terrell, the executive director of the Interfaith Alliance of Iowa.
Speaking to about 150 people, Terrell referenced statements made by other faith leaders in Iowa about welcoming the immigrant children to the state.
"Iowa should and must exemplify its natural tendency to be a welcoming community," she said.
While attending Monday's event, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said he met with President Barack Obama while in Washington, D.C., last week and said Des Moines is ready to work with the administration on the current crisis at the border.
"I told him ... Des Moines and Iowa are ready to stand up and do whatever they can to make this situation right," Cownie said.
Last week, Branstad said children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally should not be sent to Iowa. The governor called for Obama to strengthen the border's security.
"The first thing we want is to secure the border," Branstad said during a weekly news briefing. "I do want empathy for these kids, but I do not want to send the signal to send these children to America illegally."
Earlier Monday, the Rev. Alejandro Alfaro-Santiz said rally attendees were not asking Branstad to change his mind. Instead, they would stake out their own positions.
"I know how he stands on different things, so we disagree, but instead of saying what he should think or what he should do, we are going to focus on what we can do," Alfaro-Santiz told The Des Moines Register.
More than 57,000 children are estimated to have arrived in the U.S. since Oct. 1.
Monday's rally came the same day as Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he would send 1,000 National Guard troops to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. When visiting Iowa during the weekend, Perry said he would act if the federal government failed to do so.
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