Call for immigration reform

On 'National Day to Fight for Families,' people gather in support of change

By Lauren Dake, Columbian Political Writer

Published:

 

Fabiola Flores Villasenor, a senior at Hudson’s Bay High School, used to live in fear that she would never be able to continue her education beyond high school.

She came to the country illegally at the age of 7 and didn’t have a Social Security number, meaning she couldn’t qualify for financial aid or scholarships. But now, thanks to the passage of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a 2012 program ensuring children brought here illegally won’t be prosecuted, she has her sights set on Seattle Pacific University, The Evergreen State College or Gonzaga University.

Villasenor shared her story Thursday night at the Vancouver Community Library with about 40 people who showed up at a town hall to learn the latest on immigration laws and to support the “National Day to Fight for Families.”

Rallies are being held around the country in anticipation that U.S. President Barack Obama will announce changes to the nation’s immigration policies. Obama is expected to make changes administratively, ones he can make without Congressional approval. Obama has blasted Congress for failing to make progress toward comprehensive immigration reform. The call for action has increased recently with news of a flood of unaccompanied minors crossing the borders.

Pavan Vangipuram, the communication manager for OneAmerica, the immigration advocacy nonprofit behind Vancouver’s event, said Obama could consider several options including expanding the deferred action program, granting temporary work visas or halting deportations altogether.

The goal Thursday, he said, was to get ahead of the president’s announcement.

“Hopefully he’ll turn on the news and see there is a coordinated day of action across the country and it might give him pause if he’s considering more punitive action,” Vangipuram said.

The event on Thursday night included a lot of information for the attendees on how to apply for deferred action and who is eligible.

Miguel Jara, 72, of Vancouver, an advocate with OneAmerica, said he traveled alone from Mexico to the U.S. when he was 15 years old. Now, he’s a citizen. He feels for the young immigrants who are flooding the border today and hopes events like the one held Thursday can help educate people on how to stay in the country legally.

Villasenor, 17, was clearly excited she will likely be afforded the opportunity to attend college.

But there is still one fear that continues to dominate her life.

“I hope Obama passes an administrative rule so me and my mom could stay together,” she told the crowd.