Councils show resolve for DACA residents

Lindsay and Woodlake city councils approve resolutions urging Congress to pass a path to citizenship for DACA recipients

By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN

LINDSAY – Two more cities joined the ranks of local governments supporting federal legislation to protect those who were illegally brought to the United States as children.

The city councils in Woodlake and Lindsay passed resolutions on March 12 and 13, respectively, bringing the number of cities supporting DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) to five plus the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. Both resolutions urge Congress to pass legislation that “will allow thousands of young students that have lived in the United States for years, and call it home, to realize their education dream and give them a path to legalizing their immigration status.”

Eleven people took the podium in the Lindsay city council chambers to urge their councilmembers to pass a resolution in support of DACA. One of the strongest voices came from the Corona family. Araceli Corona came to Lindsay illegally 26 years ago in pursuit of a better life for her children. She said the courts eventually allowed her to stay, start a business and now her sons are serving in the military and attending one of the best universities in the country.

“I taught them it’s important to work hard,” she said. “People like our family deserve to be here and we believe we have the right to the opportunity to be citizens.”

One of her son’s Benny Corona, said he was a Lindsay High School graduate now attending University of California, Berkeley. He said he grew up working in the fields with many undocumented children, who without DACA would have been unable to drive, work or attend college. Andrew Corona is an eight grader at Roosevelt Elementary School and said working in the fields is hard, but living in Mexico is much harder. “I don’t deserve to be deported,” he said.

Many of those who spoke during public comment were either children who were brought here illegally or had family members who were at risk of being deported if a permanent solution isn’t reached. Lindsay High School student Eduardo Martinez said people working hard and studying to improve themselves deserve to feel safe regardless of their immigration status.

“They came here to find a better life and we can help them,” Martinez said.

Angel Garcia, chair of the Lindsay-based Coalition Advocating for Pesticide Safety (CAPS), said he realized the resolution didn’t carry any legal weight but that it did send a strong message of solidarity to their residents.

“Today is an opportunity to send a message in support of individuals who have contributed to the social fabric in many ways,” Garcia said.

Jose Torres, an Exeter resident who spoke on behalf of family and friends in Lindsay, said deporting hard working immigrants is not only wrong but would have adverse affects on the economy. According to the Migration Policy Institute, there are 198,000 DACA recipients living in California, meaning that there are an estimated 2,300 living in Tulare County. Fifty-five percent of DACA recipients are employed and 62 percent of those not in the labor force are enrolled in school.

“It’s really just moronic,” Torres said. “If you deport these people you would hurt our economy and hurt our communities.”

The resolution was brought to the City Council by councilmember Laura Cortes, one of five children born and raised in America by parents who arrived as undocumented farm laborers in 1975. She said her parents would have never bought a home without her mother risking deportation to purchase a home.

“I believe it is very important to give our youth hope, so that they continue to believe in the American Dream,” Cortes said. “I hope we will all stand in solidarity that we continue to foster dreams for our Lindsay families.”

Mayor Pam Kimball read a letter from Cortes’ sister, Perla Soria, who spearheaded the effort to pass a resolution as a member of the Lindsay Unified School Board last fall. The last Councilmember to weigh in on the issue was Esteban Velasquez. He said his older brother was born in Mexico but didn’t know he was undocumented until he was a teenager. They were raised in a house of 13 family members in Cutler which he realized later in life was a kind of transition home for people who came into the country illegally in search of a better life.

“It was a refuge for immigrants and it was our home,” he said.

Cortes’ motion to approve the resolution was seconded by Mayor Pro-Tem Danny Salinas. The Council voted 4-0 to approve the resolution as Councilmember Brian Watson abstained.

Woodlake unanimously supports DACA
In Woodlake, volunteers went door to door to gather 750 signatures on a petition to pass the resolution but only a handful spoke during public comment at the City Council meeting. One Woodlake High School senior said they wanted the Council to be “strong leaders who stand for everyone in our community.”

Councilmember Jose Martinez said he was born in Mexico and was not a registered citizen until he joined the military. He said fear of deportation was very real for him but did keep him in line. “If I got in trouble I knew I’d be shipped back to Mexico, so I kept my nose clean and joined the army to get my citizenship.”

Mayor Rudy Mendoza said he had the privilege of being born in the United States but many do not. He said he was glad to see so many young people attending a council meeting for their beliefs and pleaded with them to get involved in all local issues and not just those that make headlines.

“The decisions we make here don’t just affect your parents, they also affect you,” he said.

Gregorio Gonzalez said he didn’t even know what it meant to be a citizen until he was in high school yet was able to “reap the benefits of my parents.” He motioned to approve the resolution, which was seconded by Councilmember Frances Ortiz. “I hope some of you will consider being councilmembers and take care of our city.”

The motion passed unanimously. The only other city besides Woodlake and Lindsay to approve a formal resolution was Porterville. The Porterville City Council unanimously approved the resolution on Feb. 20.

The Tulare City Council, Farmersville City Council and Tulare County Board of Supervisors all approved a “letter of support,” a less formal gesture than a resolution. On March 5, Visalia became the first City Council in Tulare County to block the item from appearing on its agenda. Visalia Councilmember Greg Collins made a motion to place the item on a future agenda but the motion died for lack of second.

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