Thoughts from a Latino N.H. Democratic Delegate on Immigration Reform

Jul 27, 2016

Astrid Silva came to the United States as an undocumented Mexican immigrant and she spoke last night at the Democratic Convention in favor of Hillary Clinton. She said, “I know she will fight to keep our families together. Nuestras familias. I know she will.”

Joining NHPR’s Peter Biello today to discuss issues of immigration in New Hampshire is Alejandro Urrutia, a doctor originally from Mexico.

Urrutia is Senior Instructor of Health and Safety at the New Hampshire American Red Cross, former President of New Hampshire’s Latinos Unidos, and is a member of the New Hampshire Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees. He is a Clinton delegate and he joined Peter on the line from Philadelphia.

Silva said in her speech that Hillary Clinton would keep immigrant families together. What’s your sense of how Clinton would change immigration policy, if she were elected President?

I really believe she would influence it. This is an issue that has been there for a long time, and we need to solve this problem in a positive way. We need a comprehensive immigration reform. Hillary Clinton said, in Nevada, “I’m going to work with the Congress to make a comprehensive immigration reform. But if they don’t collaborate with me, I will make an executive order so we can force this to happen.”

How might Donald Trump’s approach differ from that of Hillary Clinton’s in your view?

Trump is using immigration in a very negative way.

First, he’s lying. There is no crime associated with undocumented immigrants. There’s the same proportion of crime happening in every racial group, including Latinos. It’s around 15%. But of that 15% of Latinos that commits a crime, less than 0.2% of undocumented immigrants commit a crime.

They are hardworking families, and they are looking for better lives for their families. They contribute to society here in the United States; they pay taxes, and they try to do the best they can under the circumstances in which they are living. Donald Trump is using immigration to become popular, saying he will build a wall to block the undocumented immigrants from coming into the United States. That is not the right approach.

Alejandro Urrutia

  How might the policies of Clinton or Trump impact New Hampshire’s immigrant community?

New Hampshire community is very small. As Latinos, we are probably around 40,000 now. They are hardworking people that often work multiple jobs. I know a family that has three jobs, and that’s terrible because of the low wages.

Donald Trump is against increasing the minimum wage. Hillary Clinton is talking about increasing the minimum wage up to $15 per hour. I think that’s fair. If the Latinos are able to make more money per hour, I think it’s going to have a huge impact—not only on their families, but also on the economy at large. Latinos would be able to buy more things; they would have more economic power. That will have an impact on the entire state of New Hampshire, not only on the Latino families.

Also, we can have more Latinos getting involved in the school districts, running for offices, and being more proactive. One of the reasons they are not that proactive is because they don’t have time.

You mentioned Hillary Clinton says she would rather work with Congress to pass Immigration policies. We also have a few open seats in Congress in New Hampshire. We’ve got a Senate race, we’ve got a House race; what would you like to hear from those candidates running for House and Senate in New Hampshire?

I want to hear that they will work for comprehensive immigration reform. Annie Kuster has already been fighting for reform. Senator Jeanne Shaheen has been a champion in it. What I want to hear on either side of the aisle is talk of a serious compromise to make this comprehensive immigration reform happen. I want to hear of a serious compromise to keep improving Obamacare, because it’s very important. It’s also very important that we continue to have medical expansion in New Hampshire.

We need to stress affordable education and quality health care because those things are crucial to having a good quality of life. We need to have a speech from everyone that is running for office saying, “We are going to have a government that will really work for us.”

When Sanders spoke yesterday, he insisted on those reforms. I think that is something that needs to be in every candidate, local and otherwise, that are running for office in Washington.