An immigrant advocacy group has launched a digital advertising campaign that aims to sway conservative voters and politicians by putting a face on people brought to the United States illegally as children.
The group has produced several short videos highlighting such people as productive members of the community. The videos will run for about a month on Facebook, said Cathleen Farrell, a spokeswoman for the National Immigration Forum. They target older conservatives in North Carolina who could sway Republican U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis to support immigration reform and allowing immigrants who are in the country illegally to stay here, she said. The group has also produced ads in South Carolina.
One of the videos features student Jose Contreras, 21, who attends Queens University in Charlotte. He moved to Siler City from Veracruz, Mexico, with his family when he was 5 years old.
Contreras is currently protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young people who were brought into the country illegally as children to stay and obtain work permits. It is an Obama administration program whose future is unclear under the Trump administration and a Republican Congress.
Not only is Contreras the first person in his family to go to college, he was also the first to graduate high school.
“This is pretty much a dream my whole extended family had,” he said. “I not only graduated high school, but my whole entire family graduated high school with me.”
The double major in mathematics and finance has maintained a 3.9 grade point average, while managing to have time for extracurriculars including tutoring his peers, mentoring freshmen and organizing campus activities.
Contreras, who as a high school student tried to hide his immigration status, said he hopes that the video will change people’s minds about illegal immigration.
“We are just people we are just here to give back to the community,” he said. “I am not here to take anyone’s job. I am here to make the United States better.”
On Monday, Tillis spoke at an event in Research Triangle Park where he said he believes there is bipartisan support for immigration reform, The Herald-Sun of Durham reported. But Tillis added that far-right and far-left politicians have made it too hard to get a bill in front of Congress.
“Shame on all the Republicans and Democrats that have come before us over the past 40 years to get us to this point,” he said, adding that this is a subject where words matter and that people are appropriately worried because they don’t know what comes next.
“Temporary protected status that can give people some certainty that they can be in this country without fear of deportation if they follow our laws, if they engage in society at some level, is something we have to ultimately get to,” he said. “It doesn’t make economic sense or any logistical sense to think you could deport that entire population.”
President Donald Trump has dismissed as “amnesty” proposals to change immigrants’ legal status without them first returning to their home countries.