You have to look no farther than rookie Assemblymember Rocky J. Chávez to understand the intricacies and complexities that come with talk of immigration reform.
The 61-year-old U.S. Marine veteran represents a minority within a minority: He is Latino, and a Republican.
When it comes to the issues deemed important to Latinos, Chávez walks a fine line between teaching members of his own party to embrace diversity while convincing fellow Latinos that he is not shunning his roots.
"I am a Republican, I am a U.S. citizen, I ran for jobs, education and veterans and I don't wear my ethnicity on my sleeve, but when you look at me, who am I? I am 5-foot-4, Mexican," said Chávez.
"I mean, do I look German to you? It is kind of clear who I am so I don't think that I have to put it on my sleeve."
Chávez is one of two Latino Republican state lawmakers including Eric Linder (R-Corona). There are 27 Latino Democrats.
Chávez is offended equally from both sides.
"The conservatives say, 'Well Rocky, he is not a true American.' And I look at them and say, 'Excuse me? My father fought for this country, I served in the military and both of my children have served and you are not calling me a true American?"
Then, the Latinos chime in.
"I get, 'Oh Rocky, he is not a real Hispanic because he is not a Democrat working for the people.' And I tell them, 'How can you say you are Mexican if your children don't even have a future?'" said Chávez.
When it comes to immigration issues like the DREAM Act or drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, Chávez said Republicans -- not Democrats -- are sending mixed messages.
"First of all, we need to own up to our perception and I think that we need to deal with residency. Yes, we'll secure the borders and then do E-verify. But, what you are actually saying to me is that you are not accepting of Latinos.
"Do you go to someone's house for dinner if you know they don't like you or tolerate you? No. So why would you become a Republican if you don't feel that we like you or see the value of you?" asked Chávez.
"I see the value. I add value to my party," he added.
For Chávez, supporting immigration reform on a Republican platform is dependent upon inclusion, not exclusion.
"Immigration is nothing new ... it is the human condition. Basically, people are going to go where they have a future for their children," said Chávez.
"I believe the United States should look at its society and say, 'What are the elements that will allow our society to grow healthy and propel ourselves to continual future world leadership? And when you look at it, it's the young, innovative people who want to work hard and do better; and, that dedication, it comes from the immigrant."
Still, he is hesitant to support the DREAM Act.
"It is a false promise, one the Democrats used strictly for votes but what added to it was the insane rhetoric of the Republican party attacking the children. That was a mistake. They should have said, 'Let's address the root of the problem; and, that is residency," he said.
Chávez said he would embrace an immigration reform plan where leaders "not only recognize, but appreciate and embrace whole-heartedly the richness of a diverse population."
When Assemblymember Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, introduced a bill earlier this year to provide drivers licenses to the undocumented, Chávez said he would support it depending on "how it is scripted."
"I don't think the drivers license should look the same as everyone else's because there IS a difference. If the objective is to allow people to drive safely and have their cars insured I am all for it. But, again, the issue comes down to residency. It recognizes that people are here and takes them out of the shadows," said Chávez.
He blames tough economic times as the reason why Latinos are singled out on the immigration issue, considering the U.S. is a nation of immigrants.
Chávez wants to set a different tone in the Republican Party even if it is only one voice.
"That is why I got into politics: As a Latino leader, to stand up and speak up because you know what? We have a lot to offer and this is my country too," said Chávez, who was born in Los Ángeles.
Chávez, a Democrat for 27 years, left the party after witnessing the harm that came to children as a result of war. His 28 years with the Marines included a stint guarding the DMZ zone between North and South Korea.
He realized the world was not a safe place.
"The military made me become a staunch Republican at a time when Democrats didn't believe in strong defense," he said. "I would see children, many of them orphans and we would feed them and I just thought of all the freedoms we take for granted here in the United States and how unfair and tough this world is."
Chávez -- who spent 10 years on the Oceanside City Council, and later appointed undersecretary of the state Department of Veterans Affairs -- is proud of his Mexican heritage and Catholic upbringing.
"I worked on an almond ranch and several packing houses. I also worked as a mortician and I painted houses, mowed lawns and worked as a bus boy earning $1 an hour. I was a dishwasher too, anything to get myself through college," said Chávez, a graduate of California State University, Chico.
Los latinos que son republicanos
No tiene que buscar más lejos para comprender las complejidades y detalles que llegan con las pláticas de la reforma migratoria, solo fíjese en el nuevo Asambleísta Rocky J. Chávez.
El veterano de la infantería de marina de los Estados Unidos, de 61 años de edad representa a una minoría dentro de una minoría, él es latino y es un republicano.
Cuando se trata de asuntos que son considerados importantes para los latinos, Chávez camina por una delicada línea entre enseñar a los miembros de su propio partido a aceptar de buena gana la diversidad al mismo tiempo que trata de convencer a sus compañeros latinos de que él no está negando sus raíces.
"Soy republicano, soy ciudadano de los Estados Unidos, mi plataforma fue con empleos, educación y veteranos y no me represento por mi etnia, pero cuando me ven, ¿quién soy? Soy un mexicano de 5 píes 4 pulgadas de estatura," dijo Chávez.
"Lo que quiero decir es ¿acaso parezco alemán? Como que está bien claro quién soy y no creo que tenga que estarlo recordando."
Chávez es uno de los dos legisladores estatales latinos que son republicanos, incluyendo Eric Linder (R-Corona). Hay 27 latinos demócratas.
Chávez se ofende de igual manera por ambas partes.
"Los conservadores dicen, 'Bueno Rocky, no es un verdadero estadounidense.' Yo los veo y digo '¿Perdón? Mi padre peleó por este país, yo presté servicio militar, mis dos hijos han prestado servicio también, y me dicen que no soy un verdadero estadounidense?"
Luego llegan los latinos.
"Lo que yo escucho, 'Rocky, él no es un verdadero hispano, no es un demócrata que esté trabajando para el pueblo.' Y yo les digo, '¿Cómo es que dices que eres mexicano cuando tus hijos ni siquiera tienen un futuro?'" dijo Chávez.
Cuando se trata de los asuntos de inmigración como la Ley DREAM o las licencias de manejar para los inmigrantes indocumentados. Chávez dice que los republicanos -- no los demócratas -- están enviando diferentes mensajes.
"Primeramente, tenemos que aceptar nuestra percepción y yo creo que tenemos que lidiar con la residencia. Si, vamos a asegurar las fronteras y luego vamos a hacer la verificación electrónica. Pero, lo que de hecho están diciéndome es que no aceptan a los latinos.
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By OLIVIA BARRAGÁN RUIZ
Vida en el Valle
MODESTO -- Adrián Quiroz has plans... many of them.
The 21-year-old Modesto Junior College student is currently taking his general education classes to later transfer to a Sacramento-area school to get his Dental Hygienist accreditation.
"I want to transfer to a university... I am the fifth one down the line (of siblings) but the first one to go to college," he said.
Even though Quiroz's ambitions sound nothing out of the ordinary, his story can be considered somewhat unique... at least to some.
Quiroz's parents separated when he was 10 while living in their native Coalcomán, Michoacán, México.
His mother, now a single mother of eight, took the younger children and moved to California, leaving Quiroz behind.
"I stayed over there for a year and a half so I was the last one who she brought over," recalls Quiroz.
He was 13 years-old when he has brought over to the United States without the proper documents.
In Modesto, Quiroz would eventually go to school like any other kid. There was nothing out of the ordinary until he enrolled in the Driver's Education class at Enochs High School.
"I wanted to get my driving permit and they told me I needed a Social Security Number. I asked my mom for it and she told me that we couldn't get one because we were here illegally. That's when everything hit," Quiroz said. "I was like 'What? I'm going to school, I want to study, I want to go to college, I want to get a career.' That (news) was really hard on me."
Quiroz felt different from his friends.
"I felt like I wasn't going to be able to do things they would, for example, getting my driver's license. But I got over that issue fast when I decided to keep on studying and keep my fingers crossed hoping for something."
That something came on June 15, 2012 when President Obama announced his Deferred Action Plan that states: "certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings."
At that time, Quiroz had been working at his uncle's tire shop for a year now, saving money to pay for his college tuition because his immigration status would not allow him to quality for financial aid.
"After graduating from high school, I took a year off school because financially I could not afford going to college. Everywhere I would look for help like scholarships, fee waivers, or FAFSA, I was limited to those; I could not apply to them because you needed to have a Social Security Number. It was really, really sad right after high school because I wanted to continue my education," he said.
The Deferred Action Plan came at the perfect time.
"I was at the tire shop when I heard the news and I was sort of bored of that place and I had already made up my mind about going to college," Quiroz said. "So everything fell into place. I felt like there would be a lot of doors opening for me. I felt like the happiest person. I was going to start college, I could start driving, all the offers that the policy gave us. You could get your driver's license; get your Social Security Number to work; and, immunity from deportation procedures. Actually, I cried that day because it was very emotional."
Four months after sending in all of his paperwork and paying the $465 fee, Quiroz was approved for Deferred Action.
He immediately got his driver's license, is now able to get a job and can apply for scholarships to further his education.
"It feels great; there's no other explanation. Even before I got it, I already had made plans to go to school, major in what I want to do and if possible, get a part time job just to get by school. It's been terrific," Quiroz said.
Quiroz has been thinking too about what will happen if an immigration reform doesn't happen in the next few years.
"They always give us the possibility of renewing the permit every two years, but any president can override it. Yet, I feel more secure now that I have the permit because if they were to pass an immigration reform I'm pretty sure that I can provide the requirements, than if I had never applied for it (Deferred Action)," he said.
Acción Diferida le abre puertas
Adrián Quiroz tiene planes... muchos planes.
El estudiante del Modesto Junior College, de 21 años de edad, actualmente está tomando sus clases generales para luego transferirse a una escuela en Sacramento para recibir su acreditación en cuidados dentales.
"Quiero transferirme a una universidad... soy el quinto (de hermanos) pero el primero en ir a la universidad," dijo el joven.
Aunque las ambiciones de Quiroz no suenan fuera de lo común, su historia podría considerarse como única... por lo menos para algunos.
Los papás de Quiroz se separaron cuando él tenía 10 años de edad y vivían en su natal Coalcomán, Michoacán, México.
Su mamá, ahora soltera con ocho hijos, se llevó a los más pequeños a California, dejando atrás a Quiroz.
"Me quedé allá por un año y medio y fui el último que ella trajo," recuerda Quiroz.
Él tenía 13 años cuando lo trajeron a los Estados Unidos sin los documentos apropiados.
En Modesto, Quiroz entraría la escuela como cualquier otro niño. No había nada fuera de lo común hasta que se matriculó en la clase de Educación al Conductor en la preparatoria Enochs High School.
"Yo quería obtener mi permiso de manejar y me dijeron que ocupada mi número de Seguro Social. Le pregunté a mi mamá y me dijo que no podíamos conseguirlo porque estábamos aquí ilegalmente. Fue entonces cuando todo se derrumbó," explicó Quiroz. "Yo dije, '¿Qué? Yo voy a ir a la escuela, yo quiero estudiar, yo quiero ir a la universidad, yo quiero lograr una carrera.' Esa (noticia) fue muy difícil para mí."
Quiroz se sintió diferente a sus amigos.
"Me sentí como que no iba a poder hacer las mismas cosas que ellos, por ejemplo, obtener mi licencia de manejar. Pero superé ese problema rápidamente cuando me decidí en continuar estudiando y crucé los dedos esperando por algo."
Ese algo llegó el 15 de junio, 2012 cuando el Presidente Obama anunció su Plan de Acción Diferida que dice: "ciertos jóvenes que entraron en los Estados Unidos siendo niños jóvenes, que no presentan un riesgo para la seguridad nacional ni para la seguridad pública y que cumplen con varios criterios clave serán considerados para recibir alivio contra la deportación o contra el inicio del proceso de deportación."
By DANA M. NICHOLS
STOCKTON -- Gauri Sánchez recently memorized her social security number.
"It brought tears to my eyes," Sánchez said.
Sánchez, who works as an administrative assitant at Fathers and Families of San Joaquín, got that number after she was granted legal residency in November through the new Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Having that number, a work permit, and a driver's license means that at age 24 she no longer hides at home when she'd rather be out socializing with friends.
"I can start my life. I can work, be an adult, be independent," Sánchez said.
Sánchez has lived in Stockton since she was 7. She attended Lottie Grunsky Elementary School, Marshall Middle School and Edison High School. She got good grades. She was active in student clubs.
But because of how she arrived in the United States, she never had legal residency.
Sánchez was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala. Her father, Marco Sánchez, worked there as a gas station attendant.
When Gauri Sánchez was 3, her father was assaulted while at work and the gas station was robbed, she said. The station owner ordered Marco Sánchez to pay for the loss, since he was on duty at the time.
Marco Sánchez couldn't pay, and so lost his job, Gauri Sánchez said.
Although she was just a preschooler, she remembers the time. "I saw my dad really desperate."
Her father decided to make the long journey north through México to California. There, he worked first in the fields and then in the logging industry, sending money home to support his family. He got a work permit, and settled in Stockton.
For three years, Gauri Sánchez didn't see her father. Then, he returned for a lengthy visit. Marco Sánchez and his wife, Alma, decided it would be best for the family if they all moved to California.
Gauri Sánchez says she remembers the long journey on buses and trains through Guatemala and México, as well as being caught at least twice and bused back to México when she and her father and sister crossed the U.S. border on foot in Tijuana. Her mother got through the first time, she said.
Through all that, she said, she never felt any danger.
"Because you are little, you know what is going on but you don't take it as seriously," she said.
Eventually all four got across, reunited, and settled in Stockton. More traumatic than the border crossing, she said, was starting third grade in a school where she didn't speak the language and other students mangled her first name.
"It was like my name was changed coming here," she said.
By fifth grade, however, Sánchez said she was speaking English with confidence.
"After that, I didn't feel like I was a foreigner, I didn't feel like I was an outsider," she said.
Until it was time to leave high school.
"When it came time to apply for college, that's when it hit me I wasn't like everyone else," she said. With no social security number, and no identification such as a driver's license, it was impossible to get financial aid, and thus to attend a four-year college.
She was strong enough academically that she was accepted at University of California, Davis. But the price tag prevented her from attending.
She managed, with her father's financial help, to earn three degrees at San Joaquín Delta College. And then she finished her bachelor's degree at Sacramento State.
The lack of papers tripped her up again after that: She wanted to get work experience in psychology in hopes of eventually attending graduate school.
Her compromise solution: She volunteered at Fathers and Families of San Joaquín. Then, in November, she got her DACA letter and became an employee.
"Now I am driving without the fear that I may get pulled over and deported," she said.
Sánchez said she's hopeful that President Obama and Congressional leaders will soon do a more comprehensive reform that would allow her and millions of other undocumented immigrants like her to earn citizenship.
But she objects to proposals both Obama and Republican Senator Marco Rubio have made that undocumented immigrants should be forced to pay a fine when they apply.
That fine, she said, suggests that she did something wrong.
"As a child, I was brought here. I didn't have an option," she said.
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