As the U.S. Senate begins debate on immigration reform, young immigrants with the Salt Lake DREAM Team are stepping up pressure on Senator Orrin Hatch. The DREAMers delivered letters from across the Wasatch Front calling on the Senator to keep families together and reunite those who’ve been divided by deportation.
21-year-old Itza Hernandez stands outside of Senator Orrin Hatch’s office at the federal building in Salt Lake City, and reads from a stack of about 600 letters.
“Senator Hatch, as an LDS member, as a human being, and as a citizen of Utah, I plead with you for a real solution for those awesome people who just want a place to work and a place to raise their families,” the letter reads.
Hernandez says she’s fighting for immigration reform because her brother was deported to Mexico, another brother is in proceedings, and her parents - who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints - are watching their family break apart. She says the Dream team in Salt Lake and Utah County asked members of LDS and Catholic congregations to write letters to Senator Hatch.
“We really want to make sure that the religious community had a voice in this immigration conversation because it’s Utah, and it is a very faith-oriented and family-oriented state. So, we wanted to remind Senator Hatch that, because there is a lot of conversation about high-skilled workers, and border enforcement, and the economy. We wanted to remind our Senator where he comes from; he comes from Utah, and families are a priority here,” Hernandez says.
Senator Hatch’s spokesperson Heather Barney received the letters.
“This group has been a very enthusiastic group, we commend them for their hard work, their interest, and their advocacy. The Senator respects them and appreciates their opinion. We’ll be happy to take these letters and send them back to Washington DC,” Barney says.
Back in DC, Hatch and Florida Senator Marco Rubio have together proposed 4 amendments to the immigration reform bill. If included they would prohibit non-citizens or unauthorized workers from receiving welfare or social security benefits, require that applicants for lawful immigration status pay back taxes, and that legal permanent residents wait 5 years for healthcare tax credits.