Telling Stories

by Secretary Hilda Solis on July 6, 2011 · 8 comments

A few weeks ago, I went back home to Los Angeles to host a conversation on immigration reform. More than 300 people packed the auditorium at East Los Angeles College (ELAC).

More than 300 people packed the auditorium at East Los Angeles College for Secretary Solis' conversation on immigration reform in the 21st century.

The immigration issue in communities like this one is about a lot more than numbers. For families in this neighborhood, it represents a daily struggle guided by great uncertainty, anxiety, and fear.

I was raised by immigrant parents in a town about fifteen minutes from ELAC, so I’m familiar with this story. Not surprisingly, many in the audience were, too.  I heard about families that had been separated; about fearful workers who had been treated terribly; and about brilliant students, with big dreams who can’t make them come true. It broke my heart. It made me think about my story – about the people who raised me and how much they’ve meant to my life. 

Secretary Solis speaks with Ms. Campos, an undocumented graduating senior at UCLA, and co-chair of IDEAS, Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success.

Storytelling is one way to learn about the immigration issue, one way to connect with it, and with each other. Stories help link our commonality – our common struggles, goals and victories.  Stories bring us closer as people. But they also provide a unique framework from which to better make the case for 21st century immigration reform.

So I’m happy that panelists and audience-members alike were able to share them.

Secretary Solis speaks with Mr. Perez, the first undocumented student to graduate UCLA Law School, following a conversation on immigration reform.

But we can’t just preach to the choir. We need to make sure that everyone – especially those who disagree – know about the many ways immigrants contribute to the wealth and prosperity of our nation.

Immigrant families boost local economies and pay into social security. They create jobs as small business owners and entrepreneurs and file three times the number of patents. And research shows that immigrants are 30% more likely to form new businesses than U.S. born citizens. Immigrants build our roads and harvest crops. And yes, immigrants are driven, smart and some of the best students we have in this country.

We need to spotlight this side of the immigration debate, too. And we need to make sure that people know about the progress we’ve made under President Obama’s leadership.  At the Labor Department we’ve signed several agreements with foreign consulates to provide added safeguards to vulnerable workers.

We’ve also launched a campaign to make it easier for vulnerable workers to know their rights – in many cases, to let them know they actually have rights – to be able to speak up on the job and file complaints. Through new revisions to our H2A farm worker program, we’ve provided increased protections for foreign workers who come here to harvest seasonally. And we’ve begun the process of certifying U Visas for victims of crimes like trafficking and involuntary servitude. 

Additionally, the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently issued a letter to all of its field offices and special agents in charge. It provided new guidance about the proper treatment of immigrants in a number of sensitive situations. It directed agents to pay particular attention to safeguarding the rights of victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, and other serious crimes – provisions that are particularly beneficial to immigrant women.

We need to do more. We have to take hold of the way people talk about this issue and about all immigrant people. We have to prove to all Americans that comprehensive reform is in our national interest. It starts with changing the conversation – with telling stories. President Obama gets that, and events like the one we hosted in Los Angeles are an important part of the process.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Walter L. Kirby July 6, 2011 at 5:55 pm

“We need to do more. We have to take hold of the way people talk about this issue and about all immigrant people. We have to prove to all Americans that comprehensive reform is in our national interest. It starts with changing the conversation – with telling stories. President Obama gets that, and events like the one we hosted in Los Angeles are an important part of the process. ”

No sorry stick to the facts. Coming to this country Illegally is committing a crime. Those that come to this country on a visa from a country such as Great Britian, is a legal way to visit and the moment there visa is up they have to leave or ICE will deport them, why should any other person from any other country be treated differently. The way to fix the problem is to secure the border, then those that can prove they have lived here longer then seven years, pay a fine for breaking the laws of this land, start the process of getting a green card, and so on. Those that cannot prove the seven years get deported. Just making reform and or amnesty is not the answer it will continue to happen and things will just get worse, history always repeats itself. I am a native of this land, yes some of my ancseters came here long ago but I am Oglala Sioux Indian, so do not think I am some ignorant conservitive.

2 Andrew Titcomb July 6, 2011 at 6:41 pm

Secretary Solis –

You completely neglected to mention the work “illegal” in this sentimental article.

How about you “spotlight” the side of the debate where illegal workers are taking the jobs and under-cutting the wages of legal workers? How about you “spotlight” the side of the debate where you want to provide tax dollars to educate illegal aliens when we don’t have enough money to pay for our own children’s education?

Please stop using our tax dollars to promote amnesty for criminals. It’s not an issue of race. It’s an issue of law.

And, please, return to the job for which you are hired, and get out of the illegal immigration issue.

3 Darlene Morris July 6, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Your spending tax dollars on this crap. … I WILL LOBBY against this waste by flagrant abuse of our Constitution.

4 Michael Duchscherer July 6, 2011 at 8:05 pm

The government works for the citizens and legal immigrants in this country. Not the illegal immigrants. Start doing your jobs and enforcing our laws. Quit lollygagging around trying to figure out ways to make new policies to circumvent those laws.

An illegal alien can not legally hold a job in this country. Therefore they have no rights to any jobs. Especially when American citizens, aka taxpayers, are out of work.

5 Gilberto Pachon July 7, 2011 at 10:19 am

Kudos for Mrs. Solis and our president, finally they are “getting it” we are not taking jobs from americans, we are helping them build a better place for “all”

6 Steve July 7, 2011 at 10:52 am

Thank God the U.S. Department of Labor is headed by someone who understands and appreciates laborers. Get the stories out there! Fear of immigration is based on ignorance.

7 Wayne July 7, 2011 at 1:48 pm

You are full of bolony !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

8 Kiwi Bird November 30, 2011 at 8:06 am

At least there is someone who care

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