This year’s Veteran’s Day gave immigration activists yet another opportunity to highlight the crucial role played by immigrants in the past, present and future of the United States. Over in New York, a veteran of the Iraq war who was born in Ecuador, Francisco Lema, has become involved in the immigration reform movement.
Lema has started advocating for immigration reform by making use of prayer vigils held outside Republican Representative Michael Grimm’s office in Staten Island. “When I went to the military I was just a permanent resident,” Lema said in an interview with the New York Daily News. “I always loved this country, so I wanted to serve. To me it was like giving something back to this country.”
Lema has recently joined the activist group Faith, which is centered in New York City and the vigils have been held thrice weekly outside of Grimm’s office, the hope being that the congressman will feel pressured enough to vote for comprehensive immigration reform, which has now come to a standstill in the House of Representatives. The group intended to use Veteran’s Day to gather in the exact same spot.
On the eve of Veteran’s Day, a group of immigrants and veterans aged between 15 and 99 gathered together in St Paul in Minnesota in order to demonstrate support for the DREAM Act, legislation that would enable undocumented immigrants to join the military. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who also supports the bill, joined them at the gathering.