Hundreds of members of Sussex County's Hispanic community were joined by organizers from CASA In Action, La Esperanza and the Delaware Alliance for Community Advancement at the Georgetown Presbyterian Church to call for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform that will grant a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. Many in the crowd were carrying American flags both large and small, as well as wearing signs and T-shirts that read "Delaware says Yes to Immigration Reform" and "Citizenship for 11 Million" in both English and Spanish. The crowd, at the urging of speakers, repeatedly chanted "Si Se Puede" (Yes We Can) and answered "Now!" when asked when they wanted immigration reform. Speakers repeatedly said the time is now for immigration reform.
Local Spanish radio personality Kevin Andrade told the crowd that immigrants are the people who work on farms harvesting our food, and start businesses in our communities. The 1,533 Latino-owned businesses had receipts of nearly $340 million in sales and employed more than 2,100 people in 2007, the last year for which statistics are available from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy. Statistics also show that the nearly 3,000 Asian-owned businesses had receipts showing $1.3 billion in sales, and employed more than 5,500 people. Andrade told the crowd that reform is important because under the current immigration system, which many consider broken, families are suffering because deportations have split them up. Speakers shared stories of children who haven't seen their parents in years, and are being denied the opportunity to live with their parents because of deportations. Andrade told the crowd that as their population continues to grow in Delaware, they'll account for many more votes in elections in the coming years. Speakers said that they now consider the U.S. their country.
Among the speakers was Monserrat Lelayos. When she moved with her family from Mexico to Delaware in 2003, when she was 12, she didn't know any English at all. She says that made school very difficult for her, as she was afraid to say simple things as "Excuse me" or ask to go to the bathroom. She described how she'd be embarrased when other kids would make fun of her when she couldn't speak English properly. She went on to describe how things became uncertain when she became pregnant while attending Del Tech, and how she was denied admission to Wilmington University because she didn't have a Social Security number. Lelayos says she was in disbelief when President Obama signed his "deferred action" Executive Order in June, granting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought into the U.S. before they turned 15, and had clean criminal records. Within two weeks in November, she was able to get a work permit, social security number and driver's license, was able to get her degree from Wilmington, and now works at La Esperanza in Georgetown.
CASA Executive Director Gustavo Torres says his organization supports the deal for comprehensive immigration reform that's being crafted by the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" in the U.S. Senate.
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