Three Republican congressman in the Valley were urged Thursday to co-sponsor proposed legislation supporting a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the country.
A press conference in front of Fresno's City Hall hinged on new poll data released this week by a Republican-affiliated polling firm, showing the majority of voters in districts represented by Rep. David Valadao, R-Hanford; Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Visalia, and Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Turlock, support comprehensive immigration reform.
While the Republican congressmen have expressed varying degrees of support, all of more than 100 co-sponsors on H.R. 15 -- a proposed immigration reform bill in the House -- are Democrats, including Jim Costa of Fresno, said Andy Levine of Fresno, executive director of Faith in Community.
"We are really hoping that all three Republican congressman here in the Valley -- Nunes, Denham and Valadao -- will lead the way for their party and become the first (co-sponsors) to make this a truly bipartisan bill, since the values of the bill -- namely the pathway to citizenship -- are seemingly in complete alignment with what they have verbally expressed support for," Levine said.
"We really think this is a way that the Valley, which is home to so many aspiring American citizens, can be a leader for the rest of the country."
Locally, last week the Fresno City Council adopted a resolution that supports reform, "urging Congress to enact reforms that create a pathway to citizenship, ensure economic strength and promote stronger communities."
Fresno City Council President Blong Xiong, who spoke Thursday with council member Oliver Baines, said immigration reform is a "common sense" piece of legislation and a congressional vote should be taken as soon as possible.
Thursday's conference was spearheaded by three faith groups: Faith in Community based in Fresno, Faith in Action in Kern County, and Congregations Building Community based in Modesto.
It included an emotional story from Gloria Sanchez with CBC Modesto.
She cried while talking about her father, who died the same day he was scheduled to be finger-printed to become a U.S. citizen. He came to the United States brimming with an American dream and had lived in the country for 15 years when he died.
Sanchez pleaded to her representative, Denham, to make sure no other undocumented person dies waiting to become a citizen.
"Please hear our voices," she said. "We are humans; we really are hard workers; we're not criminals. For my dad's dream -- a lot of families deserve to have a better future."
Pastor Natalie Chamberlain with Interfaith Alliance of Central California and Faith in Community talked about her experience in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday at an immigration reform protest, where more than 200 people were arrested -- including eight congressional members -- because they were blocking a street in view of the Capitol.
At the edge of the protest, a young girl and her parents were crying, she said. The girl's grandfather, who the family hadn't seen for 14 years, was dying in their home country. Without U.S. citizenship, the family cannot leave the country to to visit him.
Proponents of immigration reform say that it often takes undocumented people in the country up to two decades to become citizens.
The poll and politicians
The poll was conducted by phone on Oct. 7-8 by Magellan Strategies, which focused on likely 2014 general election voters in California. The company said the survey has a 3.78% (plus or minus) margin of error, with a 95% confidence interval.
Estefania Hermosillo, with Congregations Building Community in Modesto, announced the results:
<SC120,116>Of 687 people polled in Nunes' district, 74% supported comprehensive immigration reform, including 72% of Republicans, she said.
<SC120,116>In Valadao's district, 77% of 573 people were in support, including 75% of Republicans.
<SC120,116>In Denham's district, the number was 72% of 672 people, including 68% of Republicans.
Last week brought some big wins for proponents of immigration reform, including many new laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, including one prohibiting law enforcement from detaining people for deportation if they are arrested for a minor crime.
Valley congressman have talked about their support for immigration reform.
Nunes said it's "vital" to national security and that he wants to "secure our dangerous southern border while providing a humane solution for illegal immigrants already in America."
Valadao said immigration reform is one of his "top priorities" and that he is working on immigration policy that has "serious consequences" for thousands of families and industries.
Denham is also in support: "I am reviewing legislation recently introduced in the House closely, and (am) in negotiations and discussion with members on both sides of the aisle regarding this important topic."
Many supporters of immigration reform say they appreciate the statements and efforts, but hope more action is close at hand.
Adrian Arreola, with Faith in Action in Delano, said 1,100 immigrants on average are deported from the United States every day. When Congress fails to support immigration reform, they are "making a choice to stand with defenders of a broken system."
<SC120,86>The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6386, firstname.lastname@example.org or @CarmenGeorge on Twitter.