Community Columns

A real opportunity to reform immigration issues and secure our borders

Vito Chiesa, candidate for Stanislaus County Supervisor. April 24, 2008. (Brian Ramsay/The Modesto Bee)
Vito Chiesa, candidate for Stanislaus County Supervisor. April 24, 2008. (Brian Ramsay/The Modesto Bee)

The Stanislaus Board of Supervisors issued a proclamation recognizing Immigrant Heritage Month – a nationwide effort to celebrate and share inspirational stories about immigration in America. Those stories illustrate the importance of America’s newcomers and the positive impacts they have made and continue to make in our communities.

Along with recognizing these contributions, those of us who support a shift toward more realistic immigration policies should also take time to remind federal lawmakers that it’s past time they pass legislation to help the Dreamers and secure our nation’s borders.

Our Congressman, Jeff Denham, has been a strong voice in support of each, leading the effort to end the gridlock that is preventing real solutions to each problem.

Because of the Congressman’s efforts, GOP leadership is now discussing how they can get a compromise bill done this month. The matter is especially urgent given the constant legal turmoil surrounding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Immigration policy should be decided through legislation – debated on and passed by Congress – not by the Courts and not by executive decision.

I agree with Denham that a “permanent solution” for Dreamers should be combined with measures to strengthen border security.

Stanislaus County has a $3.4 billion ag industry, before considering the multiplier effects that ripple across our local and state economies. Major local industry leaders like Foster Farms, E.&J. Gallo Winery, Del Monte and so many others depend on the economic drivers of an agricultural-based economy. Nearly 60 percent of our agricultural employees were born in another country. We depend on these neighbors and friends who, as immigrant workers, are the foundation of our entire economy.

My family settled here, like so many others, to seek a better life. They were fortunate to come to this country at a welcoming time, when public officials recognized their value to the economy and the nation. My father was an immigrant from Italy and I prospered, like so many other children of immigrants, by being born and raised in this nation. I was the first Chiesa to graduate from college and I am proud to have turned to public service in order to give back to our community.

I want to remind everyone that this is not about amnesty. It’s about finding responsible pathways to citizenship.

Denham understands the contributions these members of our community make regionally and economically. He has led on that point by co-sponsoring the USA Act and Dream Act – both merit-based pathways to citizenship that could be voted on this month. I have always respected the Congressman’s ENLIST Act, which would allow Dreamers a pathway to citizenship through military service.

The Congressman’s own service in the military obviously gave him a unique perspective to author that bill, which I believe is reasonable and common-sense solution.

I’m hopeful Congress has the votes and is finally able to accomplish something tangible for immigration reform. Regardless of your party or political ideology, Jeff Denham deserves credit for leading the way to end gridlock while fighting for a better future region, state and country.

Vito Chiesa represents district 2 on the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors.