HED: Local congressman takes hardline anti-immigration stand against local immigrant firefighter
4 Nov. Cooper College, San Diego
By Franceen Perera
Local San Diego Republican Congressman Robert King took a hard stance against immigration, specifically Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, at today’s press conference at Cooper College.
King claims that DACA, a program initiated through an Obama Administration Executive Order in 2012, is unconstitutional and allows for “stealing from, taking the money from those born here.”
John Ybarra, a DACA recipient, UC Berkeley graduate and current Butte County firefighter who was involved in helping control the northern California wildfires in October, was the main focus for DACA supporters.
He was brought to the United States from Mexico by his parents at age 5, has lived in America for 23 years, never returned to where he was born and does not know his relatives other than online. In fact, Ybarra did not know he was undocumented until he applied to go to Washington D.C for a high school junior class trip.
His pro-bono attorney Jasmine Graves, from Littlefield & Associates, a firm specializing in immigration law, calls Ybarra an American hero. She says “he and his fellow firefighters were beating back those fires, it’s like they were in a war zone, this is a story to touch your heart.”
Ybarra was able to apply for and be accepted for President Obama’s DACA program, which allowed undocumented youth who came as children under the age of 16 and know no other country, to remain here and pursue their educations.
DACA recipients cannot have a serious criminal history and were allowed to apply to live and work in the U.S. legally for 2 year periods. Ybarra worked three jobs to put himself throu8gh UC Berkeley since he could not apply for financial aid.
Under President Trump’s proposed end to DACA renewals for the undocumented, Ybarra may face deportation when his DACA status expires in March 2018.
Ybarra’s attorney calls this “appalling,” saying that “he may have to leave the home where he saved lives and go back to a country he doesn’t know.”
A heckler kept shouting “go home,” and make America great” in the background repeatedly.
Graves wants to send a message to the federal government about those who are contributing to our society, putting their lives on the line. “People died in the fires, we want to appeal to this administration to understand that these people have put their lives on the line to serve our country. “
Pedro Martinez, a community organizer from non-profit organization “Keep DACA Here” (KDH), said “Ybarra is a legend in the community.” The self-effacing Ybarra responds modestly “I am not a hero, I’m just trying to do my part to help others.”
In direct contrast Congressman King says we need to “have respect for our taxpayers” and not give those who came illegally a chance to remain.
He made the remark several times that those who came to America through the legal process are different. King’s own wife is a legal immigrant who came to the United States prior to their wedding. However, statements he made during the press conference have led to questions on his wife’s entry into the U.S.
“America is a great big family. Would you let strangers in your home?”
The congressman claimed that most immigrants have increased crime in America but when asked for specifics he was unable to provide any, telling bystanders to “look up statistics” for themselves. King told Ybarra “you being here is a crime.”
Graves said “clearly people like this so-called Congressman don’t understand what their constituents want. They want to embrace people like Mr Ybarra. We don’t want to lose people like him.”
Ybarra’s attorney reached out to KDH to support him. “We will be out here, we will protest on this campus for the rest of the week.”
Congressman King’s harsh stand opened him up to scrutiny over his own wife’s entry to the U.S. He will be up for Congressional re-election in 2018.
When asked what inspires him during this period of waiting to find out his status, Ybarra said “America is my home and I know not all Americans feel like Mr. King does. There are about 700,000 others like me who have applied for DACA, and we don’t know if we will be allowed to stay. “
“It’s been a rollercoaster for me. DACA meant there is hope and I can stay here, continue to work as a firefighter to save others in this country. This is what I know and what matters to me.”