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We will fight to make the American Dream a reality for everyone

“I see that first-hand whenever I visit a naturalization service. I’ve heard many immigrants share their moving stories about what inspired them to become Americans, and I’ve watched as each one raised their right hand and was sworn in as a naturalized citizen.”
U.S. senator from Virginia and Democratic candidate for vice president. Former missionary in Honduras and civil rights attorney.
People sing the national anthem during a naturalization ceremony at the World War II Memorial on the National Mall August 25, 2016 in Washington, DC Crédito: Brendan SmialowskiAFP/Getty Images

Earlier this summer, I had a chance to meet with the Orellanas, a family from Bolivia who made a home in Virginia. Wilson Orellana works for a company providing transportation for Americans with disabilities, and his wife, Roxana is an active community member who teaches Spanish to children and helps lead the local middle school’s PTA. Their two daughters, Rebeca and Marisol, worked hard in school, and Rebeca is now an engineering honors student in college.

They’re rightly proud of the life they have built for themselves. But as we spoke, they told me how terrified they were that their family would be torn apart because of their mixed status.

The Orellanas are one of so many families in America that were eligible for President Obama’s executive actions on immigration – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). Rebeca, who arrived in America as a child, is protected from deportation and able to pursue her dreams thanks to DACA. But for Wilson and Roxana, who wanted to stop living in fear, and more fully participate in our society, the future remains uncertain.

When we met, they were anxiously awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on DAPA. Hillary and I believe that President Obama was well within his legal authority when he issued these actions. But now, unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s deadlocked ruling has thrown millions of families like the Orellanas back into uncertainty.

We should be doing everything we can to keep families like theirs together – not threatening them with deportation or breaking them apart. After all, they’re our friends, neighbors and classmates. They enrich our communities and contribute to our economy.

Hillary Clinton and I will continue to defend DACA and DAPA, and we’ll do everything possible under the law create a straightforward system for folks with sympathetic cases to make their case and be eligible for deferred action too.

These policies are critical, but we know that to truly fix our broken immigration system we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform. The majority of Americans support comprehensive reform not just because it’s the right thing to do – but because they know it will also strengthen our families, our economy, and our country.

We’ve waited long enough. In our first 100 days in office, Hillary and I will put comprehensive reform legislation before Congress that will include a pathway to citizenship, better border security, and addressing family visa backlog. It will enable our country to be what it’s always been – a place where people from around the world can come to start new businesses, pursue their dreams, apply their talents to American growth and innovation.

This is a very different approach than what Donald Trump has proposed. Not only does he not support comprehensive reform, but he’s threatened to send out a deportation force to round up 16 million people and kick them out of our country. Donald looks at immigrants and calls them “rapists” and “murderers.” And he even supports ending birthright citizenship – one of the basic American principles that if you’re born here, you belong here.

When I was in law school, I took a year off to volunteer in El Progreso, Honduras as a Jesuit missionary. The local community embraced me, and the values I learned from my Honduran community are the same values I see in our Latino community here in America: faith, family and hard work.

These are the very same values that built this nation. In America, we don’t build walls – we build bridges. Our shared values bring us together, and make us stronger. So we must not allow Donald Trump to create a false image of immigrants, and tear down everything this country stands for.

I see that first-hand whenever I visit a naturalization service. I’ve heard many immigrants share their moving stories about what inspired them to become Americans, and I’ve watched as each one raised their right hand and was sworn in as a naturalized citizen. Let me tell you – it’s one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen. Hearing them always brings a smile to my face and a tear to every eye in the room. Anybody who loves America that much deserves to be here.

There’s a saying I learned in Honduras: Adelante, no atrás.

We need to go forward, not backward.

We have our work cut out for us, but if Hillary and I have the honor of serving as your President and Vice President, we’ll keep pressing forward – not backward – and keep fighting to make the American Dream a reality for everyone.

Disclaimer: We selected this Op-Ed to be published in our opinion section as a contribution to public debate. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of its author(s) and/or the organization(s) they represent and do not reflect the views or the editorial line of Univision Noticias.