Hermiston farm worker testifies at Senate hearing

Raul Esparza de la Paz of Hermiston, Ore., speaks at a press conference on immigration reform in Washington, D.C.

Eastern Oregon got some representation in Washington, D.C., last week when an undocumented farmworker from Hermiston testified at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform.

Raul Esparza de la Paz, who has been in the country since 1998, urged the committee to keep President Barack Obama’s executive orders on immigration intact while working to come up with a comprehensive immigration reform of their own.

“On a personal level it was something amazing to be among so many senators in Congress, especially representing the city of Hermiston,” he said in Spanish.

The president’s executive orders protect several groups from the threat of deportation, including those who arrived in the country as a child and the parents of immigrants who have been a legal resident for more than five years.

De la Paz said he told the committee about how Obama’s executive action benefited his family. One of his children was already a legal resident and another was covered by the 2012 order to defer action on students who came into the country as a child. But for de la Paz, his wife and three other adult children, Obama’s new executive action removes a sense of fear they have lived with since coming to the United States.

“But a lot more needs to be done,” de la Paz said. “Now it’s Congress’ turn.”

He said even though he had to sacrifice a few days of work to travel to the hearing, he jumped at the chance to represent the United Farm Workers in the nation’s capital.

“I wanted to take the opportunity to manifest my excitement and joy over the executive action,” he said.

He said he was so excited about speaking at the nation’s capital that it only took him 20 minutes to write his speech.

De la Paz spoke at a press conference before the hearing, and said afterward at the hearing Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, ceded his time on the floor to de la Paz to expand on some of the points he made at the conference about the importance of keeping families together through immigration reform.

Immigration reform activist Astrid Silva, a “Dreamer” from Nevada who came to the country illegally at four years old and is now able to attend college thanks to Obama’s 2012 actions, also spoke at the Dec. 10 hearing.

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