We are originally from Honduras but have called the New Orleans area home for the past 33 years. Through hard work and sacrifice, we raised two wonderful daughters, bought a house in Metairie, and provide financial support to family members back in Honduras. Husband and father Salvador works as an electrician at Avondale shipyards and coaches soccer for children and adults. Soon our daughter Maribel will graduate from the University of New Orleans with a bachelor’s degree in accounting.
We are so grateful to be living the “American Dream” that millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. aspire to. And like the majority of those undocumented immigrants, we first crossed the U.S. border illegally. Our lives as undocumented immigrants took a dramatic turn for the better when we had the chance to legalize our status and eventually become U.S. citizens through the Immigration Reform and Control Act, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in November 1986.
We have always voted Republican. The first person Maribel voted for when she became a U.S. citizen was David Vitter. That’s why we were so disappointed to learn that Senator Vitter is opposed to comprehensive immigration reform efforts that are gaining steam in the Senate and instead supports policies that will keep undocumented immigrants living in fear and will further alienate Hispanic voters.
Yes, the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S. broke a civil law by entering without authorization, But just like in our case, there was no way for most of them to enter legally and work hard to escape the poverty in their home countries.
Sen. Vitter should know better than anyone the importance of forgiveness and compassion in one’s life and stop scapegoating undocumented immigrants. He needs to work with Congress to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who pass background checks and create an immigration system that is responsive to the needs of the U.S. economy. Then our economy can grow and people never have to live like we did in constant fear that we would lose everything we worked so hard for.
Salvador and Maribel Tejeda
electrician and student