Speakers at Wednesday’s rally included 23-year-old Vancouver woman Alejandra Silva Hernandez, a senior at the the University of Washington who said her dreams of going to medical school remain in limbo because she can’t gain citizenship.
Silva Hernandez’s family is originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, and she came to the U.S. when she was just 8 years old. She often was the only Latino student in her class, and “I had to learn English fast,” she said.
After grasping the language quickly, “I began to believe in myself,” she said. She soon set her sights on becoming a doctor, possibly a pediatrician or a gynecologist.
But without citizenship, Silva Hernandez hasn’t applied to medical school. A presidential executive order called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals could keep her studying in the U.S. for a couple of years, “but after that, it all depends on the next president,” she said.
Families in the Vancouver community face a “moral and humanitarian crisis” because many immigrants who want to become citizens can’t, Leavitt told the crowd. One America estimated that there are 11 million people living in the U.S. who don’t have citizenship, and they are making positive contributions to American society, members of the organization said.
To Southwest Washington’s representatives, “we say to them: Look at our faces, and hear our voices. It’s time for the debate to stop,” Leavitt said. “It’s time to stop the uncertainty.”
The speakers Wednesday were woven in with traditional Mexican dances and music, and with protest chants in Spanish. Participants held signs stating: “We are human and we have rights”; “No more deportation”; and “Keep families together.”
As he marched Wednesday evening, longtime Vancouver resident Javier Navarro said he moved to the U.S. at age 2. He gained citizenship after President Ronald Reagan offered amnesty to millions of immigrants in the 1980s.
But, Navarro said, others aren’t so lucky. They grow up in the U.S. because their parents move here, then they are deported “to a country they don’t even know or recognize,” where it’s difficult to survive, he said.
Herrera Beutler on immigration
One America members said they hope Herrera Beutler will ultimately support a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. Last month, the congresswoman’s spokesman said Herrera Beutler is pleased that there are leaders from both parties addressing immigration.
“She supports any group’s right to be heard and to make its priorities known,” Bowman said.
Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics or firstname.lastname@example.org