When Maria Bribriesco heard of President Donald Trump's plans to end a program that protects hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who were brought into the county illegally as children, she sprang into action.
The retired attorney, who is deputy state director for League of United Latin American Citizens, or LULAC, began calling everyone in her phone book and within hours of Trump's announcement last Tuesday, had the start of a new Quad-City group dedicated to addressing the plight of these young people who face deportation unless Congress acts.
"When President Trump punted the ball over to Congress, I said, 'OK, this is an opportunity,'" Bribriesco said. "He gave us six months. I am an optimist by nature. There's always been the question of whether DACA (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) is constitutional or not because it was created by executive order," she said.
The program was created under the Obama administration.
Now, those concerned about the issue need to pressure their Congressional representatives to turn DACA into law, to provide protection against deportation and to create a route to citizenship, Bribriesco said.
The new group is called the DACA QC Coalition, with representatives from the Catholic Diocese of Davenport, LULAC, One Human Family QCA, Progressive Action for the Common Good, QC-AIR (Quad-Cities Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees) and Quad-Cities Interfaith, a coalition of congregations and community groups.
The group is organizing a Peaceful Rally at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Esperanza Center, 335 5th Ave., Moline. The center is located in the Floreciente neighborhood in the former Ericcson School, operated by the Quad-Cities' Heritage Church with programs and meeting space for people in the area.
In addition to speakers and music, a key feature of the rally will be the distribution of pre-printed postcards stating support for Congressional action. Participants will be asked to sign the cards, then they will be collected and sent to representatives, Bribriesco said.
The group is printing 1,000 postcards, and is hoping for around 300 people at the rally to give them to, with the remainder to be distributed later.
"We want Congress to be bombarded with these postcards," she said.
The estimated 800,000 young undocumented immigrants affected by DACA nationwide are, for the most part, contributing members of society who work, raise families, go to church and pay taxes, Bribriesco said. For many, the United States is the only country they have ever known and they may not even speak Spanish, she said.
The number affected in Iowa is estimated at 2,800 and in Illinois is 42,000, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Representatives of the DACA QC Coalition were expected to meet Tuesday night at the diocesan headquarters to plan future action, perhaps a publicity campaign to inform the public about the "myths and realities" of the situation. This might include newspaper advertisements, letters to the editor of newspapers, presentations to groups and the distribution of flyers with bullet points.
"This is a window of opportunity," Bribriesco said of the next six months. "To look at it any other way is futile and full of anger and despair. This is a defining moment for our people, our country. We have six months. We can do it."