By Sarah Nicell || Campus Life Editor
In an increasingly politicized world, the first thing many of us do when we are inconvenienced is email our representatives. Whether we are impacted by a devastating event, an injustice, or the potholes in our roads, we send a strongly worded call to action to our local politicians. However, what we typically don’t expect is an answer. That is just what F&M senior David Cazares got.
After reaching out to multiple PA government officials, David experienced what some would consider the opportunity of a lifetime: a meeting with Congressman Lloyd Smucker of the House of Representatives. He has served Pennsylvania’s eleventh congressional district for the past four years. Despite having little in common in terms of background, perspective, and party, David and Congressman Smucker had a productive conversation about an extremely important subject that the United States must face as soon as possible: immigration reform.
Because it’s not every day that you get to chat with a Congressperson, especially about something so meaningful, I was thrilled to have the pleasure of interviewing David about this incredible experience.
Hey, David! Introduce yourself in whatever way makes you feel comfortable.
My name is David Cazares. I’m a senior studying biology on the Pre-med track. I was born in Mexico City and crossed the border when I was six years old. I lived in Georgia before I transferred to F&M last year, and it’s been one of the best decisions I ever made.
You had the opportunity to talk to Congressman Lloyd Smucker. How did that happen? What events led to your conversation?
Here’s the thing, I just emailed his office. I googled who our congressman, mayor, and senator were. I emailed all three, and he responded first. Senator Bob Casey couldn’t meet, but I am meeting his legislative assistant soon. We so often hear that one person can’t change the world. It’s a pessimistic outlook, but one that I’m guilty of. I’m trying to change that.
I was motivated by the students around me. A good friend, Roger Avila, is a fellow ally to undocumented students, and we sat down one day discussing how we could do our part. We agreed that talking to the administration to improve help for undocumented students would be a good first step.
F&M helps undocumented students, but schools often like to maintain their help private to ensure their safety. I respect that. As a whole, I think institutions of higher education should help push for immigration reform.
I have a lot of friends and family that have been victims of the injustices of our immigration system. I view it as my responsibility to improve this world, and this is the issue I’ve chosen to fight for.
According to your Instagram post, you spoke primarily about immigration reform. What does this issue mean to you? What is your vision for its future? What did Congressman Smucker have to say about it?
Congressman Smucker is a Republican. I’m an undocumented immigrant. These labels are an unfortunate aftermath of years of politicization in this country. At the end of the day, we’re both humans. Congressman Smucker believes in securing the border, he asked me what I thought about it, and I told him I agreed.
He is adamant on border security being included in any immigration legislation. It’s a terrible truth that immigrants are dehumanized to stoke fear. It’s also true that the War on Drugs has increased violence in both North and South America, something being seen along the border.
Immigration should be regulated not stopped, and the government is doing everyone a disservice by not providing reformative legislation which combats these issues effectively.
I want to help people. He and I both agree that immigration reform is needed to allow hard-working undocumented immigrants to obtain citizenship. Because in the end, immigrants want to build a future here, and there are too many barriers to that right now.
In 2021, it often feels impossible to achieve bipartisanship on any issue. However, you posted, “We don’t see eye to eye on all political problems, but we agree immigration reform is a bipartisan issue.” How do you think the parties can work together and cooperate to develop better solutions to such a big problem?
The United States has a dark history of the exploitation of slaves, immigrants, and foreign nations’ resources. In addition, there is a lot of media with the intention of dividing this nation. Fighting fire with fire will only make a larger flame, right? I see too many people on the political spectrum isolating themselves to be in an echo chamber. They focus on what divides us instead of what unites us.
We need to acknowledge the fact that we are so terribly divided. We need to acknowledge the pain and suffering caused to one another before any meaningful change can be accomplished.
Lastly, our government works because of us and it should work for us. Our government officials must be scientifically literate, open-minded, and representative of the average American.
All of that is easier said than done, especially on issues that are life or death.
How did it feel to talk to a member of the House of Representatives?
Surreal. I mean, at the end of the day I’m just an undocumented immigrant. I don’t have a vote, but I have a voice. We need to hold not only our representatives, but ourselves accountable for the role we play in other people’s lives.
I should have done it years ago, and I believe it’s something we should all do. We need to form closer relationships with the people we put in office. They need to see us with their own eyes. It’s far too easy to become alienated with such large physical and literal distances between them and the average citizen.
Lastly, it’s so cool that you had this wonderful opportunity. Has it changed your perspective or outlook on government in any way? Do you think you would like to have a career as Congressman one day (though perhaps not within the same party)?
Before anything like that, I need my citizenship. I plan on using my platform to continue advocating for immigration reform. My goal is to become a physician, and I hope to fight for more support for undocumented students. Additionally, too many institutions of higher learning don’t accept or provide support for this population within their schools. Now my focus is on the medical schools closing their doors to us. I plan on meeting with whoever is necessary to accomplish these goals.
My hands are tied at times because I’m still afraid of one day being deported, but if I don’t take a stance, who will?
David has spread the message that our voice matters more than we will ever know. For those of us who share the privilege of free speech, for those of us who have citizenship, for those of us who can stand up for immigrant rights, we must act now… even if action begins with an email.
Sarah Nicell is a sophomore and the Campus Life Editor for The College Reporter. Their email is email@example.com.