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Political Mercury

Senator Ernst: Don’t deport the kids


Newly installed U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, a Red Oak Republican, breaks with many conservatives in agreeing with President Barack Obama on a highly controversial element of White House-directed immigration reform.

Ernst says she doesn’t think undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children should be deported. They should be able to live and work legally United States as adults, she said.

“Children that are here, that have been brought here, I think, at least I feel, this is just me speaking, this is not the Republican Party speaking, this is me: children that have been brought here not of their own free will, I think that there is some opportunity for those children here,” Ernst said in an interview with Political Mercury.

In her 2014 campaign, Ernst said she didn’t support overturning President Barack Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows, through executive action, people who entered the nation illegally before age 16 (and were under 31 year of age as of June 15, 2012) to remain and work legally for two years — with a provision for renewals of the status.

Ernst reinforced her pro-deferred-action position in the interview following a Texas judge’s decision blocking the expansion of DACA. The original program Ernst supports remains in effect.

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“I am a mom,” Ernst said. “And those children are growing up in the United States. They’re growing up here in Iowa. And I don’t believe that citizenship is probably the right way to go for these children. But some sort of status for these children, I think, is an important first step for them.”

That position puts her directly at odds with U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, a conservative firebrand who has gone so far as to term young undocumented Latino immigrants as “deportables,” and those who support deferred action as “amnesty” enablers.

When asked specifically if she supported deporting immigrants living in Denison or Storm Lake or Sioux City, Ernst at first rejected that premise that there were any undocumented residents in those western Iowa cities.

“Are we saying there are people living in Denison without papers?” she asked.

Ernst went on to say that she trusts Iowa employers to comply with immigration laws in the hiring process.

“I would like to believe that the employers that are here are doing the right thing and hiring people with paperwork,” Ernst said.

There are an estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

“That is going to be a tricky issue when it comes to those that are here,” Ernst said. “And I know we have a number of families across Iowa, I’m sure, that are here without papers. We are — and I’ve said this before — we are a nation of immigrants and they are valued. They are extremely valued to us. But we’re also a nation of laws. And right now, there are laws on the books. And we need to follow those laws.” CV



What is DACA for immigrants?Sen. Joni Ernst

On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced that certain individuals who came to the U.S. as children and meet certain requirements would be eligible to apply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Many of the qualifications are similar to the DREAM Act, but it is important to understand that the two are completely different.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is a program that will only defer or stop the deportation of an individual for two years and has to keep being renewed every two years. During those two years applicants will be given: work authorization, a Social Security number, and depending on the state in which they reside, a driver’s license. (*Texas DOES allow DACA recipients to receive a driver’s license.) However, DACA does not provide a legal status or a pathway to residency or citizenship, which is the most important distinction between DACA and the DREAM Act.

The DREAM ACT is a piece of legislation that would grant conditional residency and a pathway to citizenship to people who meet certain requirements and complete either two years of college or two years of military service.

Source: Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services


Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa newspaperman who resides in Carroll. He and his family own and publish newspapers in Carroll, Jefferson and other neighboring communities.

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