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Some 50 people gathered in Roanoke to describe their experiences with immigration policies.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Mario Salazar (from left), Trish White-Boyd, the Rev. Gene Edmunds and Sharon Stanley-Rea participate in the Organizing for Action rally.
JOEL HAWKSLEY | The Roanoke Times
Roberto Flores (right) of Roanoke listens as Organizing for Action chapter leader Eddie Seay of Rocky Mount speaks at the rally.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
More than 50 people, mostly Hispanic, met at Thrasher Park in Roanoke to discuss the importance of immigration reform and how to get more active in the community.
Organizing for Action, a non profit spinoff of President Barack Obama’s grassroots club Organizing for America, hosted a forum Tuesday night for people to share stories that immigration policy has played in their lives.
Eddie Seay, an organizer for the southwestern chapter, said their main goal is to get more support for comprehensive immigration reform, especially for the immigrants who are already in the U.S.
They are lobbying local representatives to pass the overhaul bill the U.S. Senate passed two months ago that provides a path to citizenship for millions of unauthorized immigrants and a promise to bolster security on the border.
Manuel Cardenas was born in E quador but has lived in the U.S. for 13 years, eight of which have been in Roanoke. His wife and family live in Roanoke as well.
Cardenas has a job building pools, and he pays taxes. However, because he came to the U.S. without documentation, he is unable to get a driver’s license or have a Social Security number. He said he lives in constant fear of being deported and all he wants is to be treated equally and provide a modest life for his family.
“Some people say we are criminals or terrorists,” he said. “But that is not true. We just want to protect our families.”
Cardenas believes he works hard and supports this country, and he said he will do what it takes to be a law-abiding citizen.
According to data from the Immigration Policy Center, 4.7 percent of the people living in the 6th C ongressional D istrict, which includes Roanoke, are immigrants.
Shekila Yralux, a counselor at Bassett High School, went to the forum with four Hispanic senior high school students who live in the U.S. without legal permission. She said two of them have higher than a 3.5 grade point average, but they are unable to go to a four-year university because they cannot afford the tuition since they are not considered in-state Virginia residents, even though they have lived here most of their lives.
“I focus on graduation. I focus on college — on what they are going to do after,” Yralux said. “And just kind of seeing some of my students, who are undocumented students, who aren’t legal, yet who deserve everything that another child has, not be given that opportunity. That breaks my heart.”
Seay said this is a nation made up of immigrants and that the cause is not just about Hispanic Americans, but it relates to everyone.
This month, “ we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington,” Seay said to applause. “This whole fight that we are fighting about now is the same thing. We are still fighting for those things that are so dear to us — those liberties, those passions about being American.”
Seay also led a dozen people on an immigration walk Tuesday afternoon, which culminated with a rally outside the Roanoke office of Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, who represents the 6th D istrict.
Seay said the staffers were respectful and willing to listen.
Goodlatte discussed immigration reform Monday night at a town hall meeting in Verona, and in an emailed response said he welcomes anyone to talk to him about the nation’s “broken immigration policy.”
However, he does not support the immigration bill in the Senate, which he said is “fundamentally flawed and unworkable because it repeats the mistakes of the past and does not guarantee the enforcement of our immigration laws.”
“Since the beginning of the year, the House Judiciary Committee, which I chair, has convened nearly a dozen hearings on immigration, focusing on the areas of our laws that need to be fixed,” Goodlatte said via email. “Any immigration reform must first strengthen border security and the interior enforcement of our immigration laws — without it we are bound to repeat the mistakes of past reform efforts. By taking a step-by-step approach to immigration reform in the House, we will help ensure that the end result is a real solution that will fix our broken immigration system for good.”
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