“We are so grateful to be here”

Dear Friend,

Over the last two months, there has been a great deal of discussion about border security and immigration reforms. Too often, though, both sides have gone back and forth arguing over specific policy points and losing sight of the very real people at the heart of this debate – including many Delawareans who have immigrated here in search for a better or more stable life and who have contributed to our communities in tremendous ways. Juan Manual Aguiñaga is one of those people.

Mr. Aguiñaga is a business owner from Newark, Delaware and a newly naturalized citizen. He emigrated from Ecuador in 2008 with his wife and three young children, fleeing political unrest in the country and seeking opportunities for their family. After arriving in the U.S., Mr. Aguiñaga opened a business in Newark – a restaurant called Olé Tapas – that employs fellow Delawareans and helps to contribute to our local economy. Last year, the entire Aguiñaga family became U.S. citizens.

Tuesday night, I had the honor of bringing Mr. Aguiñaga with me to attend the State of the Union and sharing with the country exactly what immigrants bring to the table.  

Today, there are millions of immigrants in our country, just like Mr. Aguiñaga, who have fled crime, extreme poverty, violence and political unrest and who are simply seeking a better life for themselves and their families. What’s more, they are here helping to make our communities stronger. At a time when millions of jobs in this country are going unfilled, it is senseless to demonize those who want to come here, follow the rules and work hard. Mr. Aguiñaga and his family attend our schools, contribute to our economy and help to make the First State an even better place to live.  

“So many kids in Ecuador don’t have a future, other than maybe joining the cartels,” Mr. Aguiñaga told me. “We are just so grateful to be here. We’re not looking to take advantage of this country. We want to make it better.”   

In a few short weeks, I’ll be traveling to the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador once again in order to learn more about the root causes of migration to our southern border. I’ll be meeting with these countries’ leaders to offer my assistance in the fight against extreme poverty and unspeakable violence. While the United States alone cannot solve the challenges other countries face, we cannot turn our back on those who live lives of misery as a result of our complicity.

It remains my hope, that, in the coming weeks, as Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate work towards an agreement on border security, the President will begin to talk about the root causes of migration from Central American countries — not merely symptoms at our border. Only once we address the underlying conditions in these countries – the violence, the corruption and the lack of economic opportunity – will we see fewer migrants arriving at our border in search of safety.  

At a time of uncertainty for so many immigrants living in our country, we cannot forget those at the heart of this conversation. I’m so glad that Mr. Aguiñaga was able to join me in Washington, D.C. this week, and I’m grateful for everything he and millions of other immigrants around our country are doing everyday to make this country great.