Rep. Tom McClintock on Saturday reiterated a hardline immigration policy, telling a young immigrant in his conservative Northern California district that her best option for obtaining U.S. citizenship is to go back to her birth country.
During a rowdy, two-hour town hall meeting in El Dorado Hills, Doris Romero asked the Elk Grove Republican what she should do to become an American citizen. Romero spoke in front of a crowd of about 1,700, most of whom voiced disapproval of McClintock and President Donald Trump.
Trump suggested during his campaign last year that he would end an Obama administration program that protected certain undocumented students from deportation. But Trump has since backed off that threat and has avoided targeting such students since he became president.
Romero, 20, said her Salvadorean parents brought her to the United States when she was 5, and she is now a student at a local community college. Both her mother and father have legal temporary protective status, she said.
When former President Barack Obama created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which offers renewable two-year deferred action from deportation, she registered.
“I automatically applied because I was raised with American morals and I know to do the right thing,’ she said. “But now I’m documented and I want to know what you are going to do for the Dreamers, for people who didn’t have a choice and for the people who love this country and respect it?”
Undocumented students are often called “Dreamers,” a reference to various proposals that provide them help. The federal Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which has stalled multiple times, would provide a citizenship path to undocumented students who meet a series of requirements. California passed its own Dream Act in 2011, a series of bills that provide higher education benefits to undocumented immigrants brought to the state as children.
McClintock responded that Romero and other undocumented students need to follow existing laws and later suggested she should return to El Salvador and follow immigration rules for new immigrants.
“There is a legal path to citizenship, and it’s followed by millions of immigrants,” McClintock said. “I would urge each and every one of them ... if they truly want to become Americans, to avail themselves of the path to citizenship that is followed by countless legal immigrants who obey our laws.”
After the town hall, McClintock said that, “She should obey our immigration laws, return to her own country and apply for admission the way millions of legal immigrants have done for generations.”
Romero broke into tears listening to McClintock’s reply during the town hall, as the crowd erupted with chants of “Help her.”
“I’m heartbroken because this is the only country I know…I don’t feel welcomed,” Romero said. “This is my home…I love America and I want to become a citizen…I want [the] Congressman to represent me in Washington and be my voice.”