Local Latino leaders to visit D.C. next week

Local youth and leaders may have the chance to impact the national discussion on immigration reform next week.

Several Austin residents will join about 40 people from southern Minnesota in Washington, D.C. March 5-7 as part of National Latino Advocacy Days. The group, organized by Latino-rights advocates Centro Campesino, will have the chance to meet with the staff of U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., and U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, both D-Minn.

Centro Campesino usually sends a few local leaders to our nation’s capital each year, but this year is especially important according to Jeffrey Jurewicz, a Centro Campesino community organizer.

“With immigration reform so imminent, we wanted to make sure as many of our youth leaders as possible will be able to make their voices heard,” Jurewicz said.

Federal legislators and the White House have discussed various immigration reforms over the past few years. President Barack Obama issued the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals memorandum last summer, allowing the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to establish rules to disregard immigration cases against children and young adults who came to the U.S. illegally. Since then, federal officials have discussed creating a “path to citizenship” for undocumented residents.

Local leaders say immigration reform is necessary to ensure families already here aren’t afraid of being torn apart, as many families consist of members with various legal statuses.

“Sometimes I’m worried about the kids, especially when it comes to their parents and immigration status,” said Miguel Garate. one of several local leaders to go to D.C. next week. Garate will join several Riverland Community College students on the trip, and is looking forward to a federal decision on immigration reform.

“I want to represent my community and especially our workforce, how hard they work,” Garate said.

Jurewicz agrees immigration reform would benefit families across the nation.

“Families are the basic unit of society, and if you tear them apart, then you will see immigrant communities also break down,” he said. “Most families that have an undocumented family member, there’s mixed [legal] statuses. That’s another key thing for [a] family unit.”

Youth leaders will also get advocacy training in D.C. Several Latino youth groups have sprung up in southern Minnesota, starting with Austin and Albert Lea’s Pa’Delante group last summer. Teens and young adults in Rochester, Owatonna and Red Wing have also started Pa’Delante groups, Jurewicz said.

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