North Carolina students visit Congress to push for immigration overhaul


McClatchy Newspapers

For high school senior Eddie Villanueva, walking the halls of Congress got easier this year.

“This year I don’t have any butterflies,” said Villanueva, an 18-year-old from Vance High School in northern Charlotte, N.C. “Years ago I’d be nervous, but not today. Today, I’m ready to go to war.”

On Thursday, Villanueva was one of nine students from Charlotte-based United 4 the Dream, a Latin American youth advocacy group that travels to Washington every year to talk to lawmakers and lobbyists about immigration, who visited Capitol Hill to reach out to Congress. This was his third trip.

United 4 the Dream, founded in 2010 by three teens, is a faction of the Latin American Coalition, a statewide immigration rights organization. The coalition traveled to Washington this week for its Keeping Families Together campaign, a bus tour that overlapped with the National Council of La Raza’s Advocacy Days, a gathering in Washington to push for immigration restructuring. The council is the country’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization; the Latin American Coalition is one of its affiliates.

United 4 the Dream’s mission Thursday was to meet with Rep. Richard Hudson, a Republican from North Carolina. The group of high school and college teens each had prepared speeches for Hudson that would explain why immigration restructuring was important to them.

Upon arriving at the representative’s office, however, the teens learned that he had another meeting at the time they thought they had a meeting with him. They spoke to Hudson briefly in the hallway outside his office instead; only a handful got to share their stories.

Jorge Acosta, a senior at Garinger High School in the central Charlotte area, was one.

He’s an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who came to the U.S. with his family when he was 2 months old. Last year, he and his father got into a car accident, and his father was deported after the police arrived.

“People told me that I couldn’t go to college because of my status, so I stopped trying,” Acosta said. “Before I came to United 4 the Dream, I wasn’t doing great in school, and now I have A’s.”

Acosta said he planned to continue his education at Central Piedmont Community College. He wants to study culinary arts.

As for his father: “We’re going to try to get him back in a few years, but there’s nothing we can really do now.”

After hearing the stories, Hudson said, “My position has always been that we’ve got to have comprehensive immigration reform. We’ve got to fix the system across the board. . . . Then we can deal with folks like yourself who are here undocumented, and we have to do that with compassion.”

Selene Medina, a freshman at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, had expected more from the meeting.

“I guess it was a good meeting for the circumstances we were under – for a hallway meeting,” Medina said. “All he said is ‘Yes, there needs to be comprehensive immigration reform,’ but not a path to citizenship.”

In a news conference Thursday, National Council of La Raza’s president and CEO, Janet Murguia, urged advocacy groups to keep pushing for immigration restructuring that includes a path to citizenship. Specifically, the council wants a program that allows hardworking undocumented individuals to be able to apply for citizenship in a process that won’t take more than a decade.

“Immigration reform would strengthen not only our communities, but our entire country,” Murguia said. “We’re optimistic, knowing that both sides seem to be open and eager, although the most important thing for us is that a bill is being introduced as quickly as possible.”


Read more Politics Wires stories from the Miami Herald

Former Washington photo editor Toby Massey, right, and Florida photo editor Phil Sandlin, left, edit photos at Kennedy Space Center during an early Space Shuttle launch as photograher Steve Pyle, rear,  coordninates transmissions with New York.   Massey, a photographer and photo editor who directed coverage of presidents and political conventions as well as natural disasters, the space program and sporting events during a 38-year career with The Associated Press, died Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014. He was 80.

    Former AP photo editor Toby Massey dies

    Toby Massey, a photographer and photo editor who directed coverage of presidents and political conventions as well as natural disasters, the space program and sporting events during a 38-year career with The Associated Press, died Thursday. He was 80.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, under indictment on two felony counts, is in the nation’s capital to deliver a speech at The Heritage Foundation about the border crisis plaguing his state on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, in Washington, D.C. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)

    Inside conservative fold, Perry talks of indictment, immigration

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry, fresh from his recent indictment on charges of abusing the powers of his office, told a conservative audience Thursday that the “porous” southern border provides an entry point for Islamic terrorists to strike in the United States.

  • Supreme Court referee hears linebacker's case

    Lawyers for the University of Oklahoma and a junior linebacker have met with an Oklahoma Supreme Court referee who will recommend whether the state Supreme Court should hear his case against the university.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category