America. It’s the home of the brave and the land of the free. That’s what we are known for and why so many people immigrate to the United States. It is a country that was founded on the principle that every person has God-given rights. That power belongs to “we the people.”
Here we are not trapped in the circumstances of our birth. Here we have the freedom to achieve our greatest potential and live out our unique dreams.
Our country is special because we’ve been united not by a common race, ethnicity, or background. We are united by common values rooted in freedom.
As a grandson son of two Mexican immigrants and son of a Central American immigrant, I am proud to be a Latino American and call Fresno home. Unfortunately, many of my friends in the Valley aren’t as lucky as I am to be citizens. Many of them immigrated to the United States with their families at a very young age and have always called California home even though they are undocumented.
For these Dreamers, Fresno is the only home they know and all they remember.
Sadly, Dreamers have everything they’ve worked so hard for – their homes, education, careers, and so much more – at stake. Any wrong move could send them on a path back to their country of origin. Essentially all undocumented immigrants currently living in the country are considered priorities for deportation under President Trump’s immigration enforcement priorities.
In the United States, over 2 million Dreamers are contributing to their local communities, churches and the economy. Immigrants make up 21.8 percent of the population in the Fresno metropolitan region. They make up 77.9 percent of our agriculture industry, 36 percent of our manufacturing jobs, and 32.3 percent of our administrative support-service jobs.
They own 38,178 homes and have $3.2 billion in spending power. They are our friends, neighbors, classmates and co-workers. Fresno needs them in our community.
With so much uncertainty surrounding deportations, our Congressional leaders must honestly consider policies that make sure that immigrants who are an integral part of our world will not be deported. Congress actually has a plan to create a path to permanent legal status for our upstanding friends and neighbors who are looking for an opportunity to become citizens so that they do not have to live in fear of deportation.
The Recognizing America’s Children Act (RAC Act), seeks to help undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors by providing a five-year path to citizenship. The RAC Act would allow Dreamers the opportunity to earn legal status by passing a background check and continuing to contribute through their studies, work, or military service.
The standards outlined in the RAC Act allow our friends, classmates and neighbors, and family to continue living prosperous lives in the country we all love. This policy allows the government to focus on public safety, and ensure that our communities continue flourishing.
Every dollar spent removing Dreamers who came to this country as children is a dollar not spent removing criminals or improving border security.
Congress should work together to pass this legislation so hardworking young immigrants can continue working, paying taxes and studying in the only country they know as “home.” Without action from Congress, these hardworking young individuals could be deported – uprooting their lives and leaving a noticeable absence in their communities.
Now is the time for Congress to enact bold reform that speaks that foundational statement on The Great Seal of the United States – “E pluribus unum” – out of many, one.
Gonzalo Villegas is a community advocate, and has worked in the California State Legislature and City of Fresno as a legislative assistant. He is a graduate student at the University of Southern California, where he is completing a master of public administration degree with an emphasis in public policy.