More than 100 people attended the latest citizenship fair hosted by Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes at the Immaculate Conception Church in Colton on Saturday September 9 to help residents file for citizenship and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) renewals.
Immigrant rights groups and community organizations had dozens of volunteers help in the effort to assist legal residents on their pathway to citizenship and secure young immigrants’ work status at least for a few more months.
President Donald Trump’s announcement to rescind the DACA program on September 5 has prompted immigration advocates and political leaders to alleviate community concerns by directing green card holders (permanent residents) and immigrants to resources and assisting them with their applications.
‘It’s our responsibility to help’
Reyes (D-Grand Terrace) believes it’s the responsibility of local and state leaders to utilize organizations such as the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Collective (IEIYC), the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ), and the San Bernardino Community Service Center to help immigrants and green card holders that continue to be marginalized.
“We have the ability to count on friends to help us provide resources,” said Reyes. “They see the need and are willing to come here. We can’t continue to leave our young people in the shadows.”
Emilio Amaya, the executive director of the San Bernardino Community Service Center, said the goal of the citizenship and renewal fairs is to encourage people to take action about their legal situations.
“This is nothing new,” Amaya exclaimed about Trump’s announcement. “Frankly, this was expected by us. The message to our community is that we will do everything to prepare them.”
IEIYC Chair Saira Murillo appreciates the support given to undocumented immigrants, but ascertains true power for mobilization lies with the community.
“At the end of the day, it will be the community who will mobilize and organize to push for a policy that includes all 11 million undocumented immigrants,” said Murillo.
DACA recipients and aspiring citizens making the best of situations
Guillermo Garcia, 33, of Redlands migrated to the U.S. when he was 3 years old. He said he’s come a long way from the streets of East Los Angeles. Garcia is currently studying sociology and political science at San Bernardino Valley College and is involved at the college’s Dreamers Resource Center.
Garcia believes the nation’s current political situation and the news surrounding DACA is pushing people with residency status and undocumented immigrants to pursue legal protections.
“The circumstances they find themselves in is motivating them to make that next step,” said Garcia. “I think many people realize becoming citizens will give them the power to vote for someone better than Trump.”
Garcia expressed confidence in Congress’ ability to come up with an immigration law that will be viable for all parties involved. Regardless of the situation, Garcia said he’ll remain positive.
“I think they know the impact DACA’s elimination will have on our economy,” he said. “I don’t believe our government and corporations will allow for undocumented youth to lose their protections.”
Martha Servin of San Bernardino was motivated to help at the fair because of her son Gerardo, a DACA beneficiary. She said he makes a good living repairing medical equipment in Arizona.
“Supporting my son and others like him is essential for our country’s stability,” Servin implied. “Something good will come out of our work.”
Armando Cruz, 47, of Colton has lived in the U.S. for over 30 years. He’s determined to gain citizenship to help his wife receive legal status.
“I’d feel good receiving citizenship because I would be able to help my wife,” Cruz explained. “And I’d finally also be able to vote for a good leader.”
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