Inspired and Inspiring: For HIAS Pennsylvania, Immigration is a Personal Issue

During the convention weeks, as politicians and individuals staked their position on immigration, one story stood out—Karla Ortiz’s speech about her experience living with undocumented parents.  Her story resonated with me because I have also lived in fear of deportation of my family. Just like Karla’s parents, my parents came to this country in search of the American Dream and a better life.

My parents, like many others in their situation, have faced adversity and discrimination. These people are denied the basic opportunities that allow them to live with peace of mind. People like Karla’s parents and mine put themselves in dangerous situations, not out of recklessness or disregard of the law, but out of necessity. They often drive without a license because they still need to get to work and provide for their families. They live in fear of being pulled over and having to face major legal consequences. In states like Arizona, immigrants fear utilizing public services, such as contacting the police, because they know the police in that state will hand them over to immigration officials. As a result, crimes committed against immigrants go unreported.

Despite their daily challenges, the resiliency of my parents, Karla’s parents, and others like them is truly something to be admired. These parents and families are brave enough to expose themselves day after day in order to achieve the American Dream, work hard, pay taxes, and provide a better future for themselves and their children.

Thankfully these people are not alone and much can be done to improve their situation. In order to have meaningful change, advocacy at the local and national level is needed. We need to fight and push for the implementation of commonsense policies that will allow these people to come out of the shadows, integrate into our society and keep their families together.

This is part of the reason why I do what I do. I want to help those families stay together and have a bright future.  I am proud to be part of an organization that, for over a hundred years, has welcomed the stranger.

Gerardo Castillo Jimenez

Gerardo Castillo Jimenez is a Know Your Rights Specialist at HIAS Pennsylvania. He educates immigrant youth about their rights. 

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