NAPA VALLEY REGISTER
Growing up in Napa, Karla Gomez knew she was different but wasn’t sure how.
There were little things throughout her childhood that reminded Gomez of the disparities, such as her inability to participate in many of the activities her peers were involved in, she said.
It was because Gomez wasn’t a legal resident and her parents feared that the family’s immigration status would be discovered if she filled out forms needed to participate in some after school activities, Gomez said. Gomez’s mother and father brought her to Napa from their native Jalisco, Mexico, along with her three brothers 15 years ago.
“Luckily, we got our (residency status) when I was 15,” said Gomez, now 18.
Gomez’s family spent many years in fear of being discovered, but managed to build their lives in Napa and become productive members of the community. Gomez is now dedicating her time to advocate for immigration reform so that others who are in a similar situation can accomplish what her family did.
“I witness people not being able to do things because they don’t have (an immigration) paper,” Gomez said. “I think if immigrants weren’t here, then Napa wouldn’t be the way it would.”
Gomez recently became a member of Reform Immigration For America (RIFA), a national organization that supports comprehensive immigration reform and is helping the group organize a town hall meeting set for Thursday at St. Helena Catholic Church.
“I feel we need to change what we see in the world,” Gomez said. “I cannot make any of these changes alone and that is why I got involved in this campaign, because only unity can change our broken immigration system. This is also important to me because I am representing my Latino identity, my family’s hard work, the future for the next generation and the dream every human being has to be treated equally.”
President Barack Obama’s administration has pledged support of immigration reform that gives the estimated 11 million or more undocumented immigrants an opportunity to become residents if they are in good standing, learn English, pay a fine and go back to the end of the line that many immigrants wait years in to become residents. The administration also aims to strengthen its ability to secure the border, work with Mexico to create economic opportunities that will decrease the need to leave and streamline the way people legally immigrate.
RIFA promotes a three-pronged solution to immigration reform that includes a way for undocumented immigrants to become residents, deals with the backlog of people who are waiting patiently to become residents and secures the borders.
“The way that the president is focusing on it is not to be focusing on it directly,” said Polo Morales, Napa director of RIFA. “This is something that he didn’t mention a timeline or a time frame on.”
Groups such as RIFA and Latinos Unidos de Napa Valley, a group of Napa residents who have been deeply involved in nearly every issue affecting the Latino community, are attempting to put a spotlight on immigration so that legislation reform is not forgotten this year, Morales said. Thursday’s meeting is part of a national week of action, during which RIFA will be holding similar events throughout the country.
RIFA organizers said the meeting will feature speakers from United Farm Workers and members of the community who will share their stories with those in attendance, Gomez said.
The meeting is set for Thursday, 6-8 p.m., at St. Helena Catholic Church’s gymnasium at 1340 Tainter St.
Correction: In an earlier version of the story, Napa RIFA director Polo Morales first name was not included.