MONTEREY, Calif. - Central Coast Congressman Jimmy Panetta says he will not stop fighting for young undocumented immigrants as Congress has less than four months to make a decision on DACA.
KION met up with the congressman for a one-on-one interview about immigration reform and the DACA debate.
KION: “What is the latest on Capitol Hill with DACA?”
Congressman Jimmy Panetta: “We have a number of pieces of legislation to put forward and the most important one is the Dream Act with an earned pathway to citizenship for our dreamers, but we also have the Bridge Act and Safe Act which replace DACA. You have the Hope Act which allows people who are undocumented to come in and the Raise Act.
“We need to focus on the Dream Act and make sure we come up with a compromise and deal with earned citizenship and talk border security. That doesn’t mean a wall. That’s what they call a poison pill for us on the left side of the aisle. We feel that’s not a smart way to talk border security when you’re talking about electronic surveillance, detection devices, infrastructure, ways to make the border itself secure in this 21st century then I think we can have a conversation. What I’m happy to tell you is that republican and democrats are talking about this, taking a look at the raise act and dream act and talking about the necessary components of an agreeable border security package so we can show leadership there are democrats and republicans that agree on this.”
“What may happen is come December with the budget package, I can see there may be an adding of the Dream Act onto the budget to let them know it is part of the package and hopefully that passes.”
“Whatever happens people should know that there are people in Washington D.C. who are working very hard to give them certainty not just in regards to their legalization status but to their future and I think that’s important for people to understand.”
KION: “As you know it is a little bit of an uphill battle right now for the democrats when it comes to immigration, a lot of politics that come into play, so you say that you do see momentum moving forward with a bi-partisan effort?”
Congressman Panetta: “I’m glad you say that. That is one of the most difficult things and I think that’s what people need to understand. Being the grandson of immigrants, having been raised on the Central Coast, being a gang prosecutor, I understand how important immigration, immigration policy and immigration reform and security is to this area, to our country, to our community, but you have to realize there are certain districts throughout our nation where it’s not a priority. Four fifths of republican districts have below average number of immigrants in their districts. Unfortunately, there are people who I’ve spoken to and it’s important to have this dialogue, but you have to understand where they’re coming from. I spoke to people on the other side of the aisle where they say it’s politically safe for me not to touch immigration, but we’re not going to let that happen. We’re going to make sure immigration is a topic that we have to deal with and that’s why you have leadership reaching out to the administration with younger newer members of congress, republicans and democrats coming together. I’m part of a working group of the Problem Solvers Caucus. It has republicans and democrats at the table having a dialogue to how we compromise as to earned citizenship for dreamers and a border security package not dealing with the wall, dealing with technology and ways to help border security so that gives me hope that not only when it comes to our dreamers, but future legislation even though when you turn on the TV you see a lot of reporting is about divisiveness, but I can tell you there is dialogue amongst democrats and republicans talking about the issues to create and pass legislation.”
KION: “Let’s say after six months, there is still no decision what’s next for these dreamers?”
Congressman Panetta: “If none of those pieces of legislation we put forward tend to make it to the floor for a vote then the next option is to tying it into the budget that’s coming up for a decision in December and after that come March, there are a couple of options. They are continuing to fight for those pieces of legislation to get passed and at the same time it’s pushing the administration to do the right thing. I think Donald Trump said a couple weeks ago, “Well if nothing happens in Congress and the March 5th date comes around, I can always extend that date as well.” “Look we don’t want to get there. We want something to happen soon we would love to see the Dream Act on the floor for a vote because I believe it would pass. That is why we signed a petition to make sure it’s on the house floor for a vote. It didn’t make it and I don’t know if it’s going to make it, but we wanted to show everybody this is what we’re doing, we’re pushing the Dream Act for a vote and at the same time we are working to come to a compromise with our republican counterparts. I am on the problem solvers caucus to make sure we have that discussion that dialogue show leadership there is an area we can agree upon.”
KION: “What do you say to those who don’t support DACA or comprehensive immigration reform?”
“I’d say come to the central coast of California come to Hartnell college and talk to one just one talk to Emannuel hear from there hear these are men and women who to me are the American story in the sense that their parents took a risk to come their children these dreamers have taken risks to stay here yet every time every hurdle put in front of them they gotten over that hurdle to me that’s what makes this country great we are a nation or risk takers people have taken a risk to come here taken risks to stay here people have taken risks to fight live in this great country if they talk to these dreamers they’ll understand these young men and woman are American in every way but on paper and they deserve the opportunity to become American”