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Ariz. girl, women describe discrimination at Capitol Hill hearing

WASHINGTON (AP) – Little Katherine Figueroa sat in a grand room inside a Capitol Hill building pleading through tears to members of Congress: “Please tell President Obama to stop putting parents in jail, all they want is a better life for their kids.”

The 10-year-old girl sat with four women who, like her, told a handful of sympathetic Democratic members of Congress emotional stories of their encounters with immigration enforcement.

Katherine said her parents were arrested by deputies who work for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. The arrests made it hard for her to go to school, she said.

“I would also have bad dreams where the Arpaio deputies would take my aunt, her family and me to jail,” Katherine said.

The testimony was delivered in a packed committee room in what organizers called an “ad-hoc hearing.” The partisan event was assembled by Arizona Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva to pressure the Obama administration and Congress to overhaul immigration laws and to challenge Arizona’s tough new immigration law.

The law requires police enforcing other laws to check immigration status if they suspect someone is in the country illegally. It takes effect July 29 unless it is blocked by pending legal challenges.

“The law is a harbinger of things to come if this Congress does not act, if this administration doesn’t act,” Grijalva said.

Sylvia Herrera, a researcher with the Arizona community group Puente, said the group has received about five reports a day from people with complaints of racial discrimination since the law was signed.

Agencies are asking people for additional identification, workers are not being paid by employers and a blood bank refused to take the blood of people who only speak Spanish, Herrera said.

Some of the problems preceded the new law, but the law’s passage has “empowered” agency workers and others to discriminate, she said.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., laid some of the blame on President Barack Obama, who he said “we elected to bring justice to our community.”

Obama campaigned on a promise to address immigration reform in his first year in office. But it remains undone and chances for such legislation this election year appear dim.

Some Democrats and most Republicans in Congress oppose taking up immigration reform this year, and have renewed calls for “border security first.”

Colorado Rep. Jared Polis wiped his eyes when one of the witnesses, Silvia Rodriguez, 23, thanked him for calling her an American earlier in the hearing. She said it was the first time she had been called one.

“The only time that I felt to be the slightest happy, or accepted or proud by this country was when President Obama won his presidency,” she said. “For him to not step up and fulfill his promises, really, really breaks a lot of hearts.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

6 comments

  1. Why didnt that little girl ask her parents why they put her in that position.why did her parents start the problem by comming over here illegally?Its funny,years ago in this country,people wanted to be like america,wanted to be everything american.therefore they learned the language and were proud of it.flew an american flag.and adapted and changed to be an american.to fit in.Look around today,spanish spoken everywhere,mexican music,the mexican flag flown.what the hell,If you love your country so much go back!change your laws in your country,dont come over here and try and change us and our laws.I an proud to show any person any time that im here legally,the mexicans ***** about that!If you dont like it and you dont want to be an american…LEAVE AMERICA!!!!!!!

  2. MAYBE IT IS TIME THAT WE TAKE OUT THE LAST FOUR WORDS OF THE PLEDGE OF ALLIGENCE—-AND JUSTISE FOR ALL!!!!
    OR MAYBE WE CAN ADD SOME WORDS TO THE ENDING OF IT TO MAKE IT MORE PERSONAL. AND JUSTICE FOR ALL WHO (ARE WHITE ) THERE YOU GO.

  3. I, have no sympathy, there is no time for a double standard here, “What about the “American” children, whose parent’s get locked up!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. These young children are used as pawns to spread more “hate” towards
    citizens of the United States.
    This tactic is used when people like Raul Grivjalva have nothing else
    to work with.
    All citizens of the United States of all ethnicities must demand to
    have our borders secured, now.

  5. Come to America legally, be an American, learn the laws and the language, and you are welcome with open arms. America should deal with illegal Mexicans exactly the way Mexico deals with their illegal immigrants. Look it up they are not as welcome,

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