By Glynis Kazanjian
At the Rockville campus of Montgomery College, where the Maryland Dream Act debate began, Delaney told the crowd of Latino students he strongly supported the federal Dream Act and a “clear and short path” to citizenship for the country’s undocumented population.
“I would like to be a voice for comprehensive immigration reform,” Delaney told members of a newly formed student immigrant advocacy group, Justice for Students in America. “Creating a path to citizenship for the 11 million [undocumented] has to be a national priority.”
Delaney’s campaign platform is based largely on job creation and protecting the middle class. He said comprehensive immigration reform would allow the U.S. to be more competitive in the global market place, and there was little evidence to back up the “myth” that immigrants take jobs from Americans.
‘Immigrants create jobs’
“This notion that immigrants take jobs from Americans is just false,” Delaney said. “Immigrants create jobs in this country . . . One of the reasons we don’t have enough jobs is because we don’t have immigration reform.”
In response to a question about constituent priorities, Delaney said if was elected he would work to help his district keep companies already there and attract new businesses.
“Maryland is the third most dependent state on federal spending in the country,” Delaney said. “Maryland ranks 25th or 35th, depending upon the report, in private sector job creation. So we’re really not good at creating jobs that have nothing to do with the federal government. Everyone predicts federal spending will most certainly go down, and the jobs will go with it. We need to replace those jobs with jobs in the private sector.”
Delaney said he thought it was a tragedy that current immigration policy was not offering the same opportunities for work and a better life that his ancestors once had. He also fielded questions about Secure Communities, the federal program that allows local law enforcement to check immigration statuses.
“Secure Communities, which has been expanded by the president, is there to identify felons. There is evidence it works. The application is a little challenging . . . There’s a little bit of the Wild West going on.”
Delaney campaign manager Justin Schall told the crowd that the campaign would be working closely with Dream Act advocates and that Spanish speaking commercials would be coming out.
JSA is a new, national movement that formed earlier this year when 18-year-old Jorge Steven Acuna, an undocumented Montgomery College student, was arrested and nearly deported along with his parents. JSA spokesperson Francisco Cartagena, an undocumented college student, said JSA's members speak for him because he can't.
"My dream is up here," Cartagena said while holding his hands above his head. "This is my home. I became an American. But I've had to live my life down here. You folks are my voice. I can't vote even though I want to."