Treated Differently

Commentary by Oscar Mejia

This November, we will not only cast our ballots for our choice for president, but also for who we want to represent our community in Congress.
Right now we are represented by Rep. Steve Knight who, like myself and so many of us living here, is a veteran. While we share that experience and I respect him for his service, I do not believe Knight is the right person to represent our community or our veterans in Congress. Here’s why.

In September 2001 I was a full-time student at L.A. Pierce College set on becoming an aerospace engineer. But after 9/11, I literally ran to my recruiter’s office and volunteered to serve my country. Against my mother’s advice to stay in school, I put my education on hold for a greater cause. I promised her I’d return to my academics once my country did not need me to serve any longer.
Like my fellow veterans from the Greatest Generation, I answered the call of my country. And yet, Knight treats veterans like me differently. Why? Because I am an immigrant.

At the age of 8, I immigrated to the United States from Nicaragua to escape an oppressive regime. My mother and I faced tough times, but like most immigrants, we worked hard and loved our adopted country.

When the U.S. needed all hands on deck, then-President George Bush authorized all permanent residents serving our nation in time of war to receive expedited citizenship. President Bush put country before the politics of immigration.

Unfortunately, Knight doesn’t agree and he simply doesn’t understand. Just 1 percent of the U.S. population serves in the military. I served for 13 years: two years as a permanent resident and 11 years as a proud American citizen. Why stop patriots from serving the only country we know and love?
In June, Knight voted to deny immigrants the opportunity to join the military and protect our country. Knight’s vote is an insult to President Bush and to all service personnel who fight honorably when our country needs us.

Knight’s anti-immigrant record extends beyond preventing immigrants to serve our country. It includes Trump-like policies like building an unrealistic and costly border wall and deporting parents of American citizens without mercy. It’s clear he has no interest in comprehensive immigration reform, and he opposes programs like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals – which celebrates its fourth anniversary this week – that protected hundreds of thousands of young people in California.
My story has a happy ending. I’m married and have four beautiful children. I’ve earned my bachelor’s and master’s of science in aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering. I currently work on research and development of supersonic airplanes.

In other words, I still work every day to keep this country safe.

There are so many more immigrants who want to contribute to our country like I have, and we need a member of Congress who will stand up for us.

This November, join me in rejecting Steve Knight and supporting Bryan Caforio, who will stand up for all people who want to serve our country.

Oscar Mejia is an Army Veteran and a resident of Lancaster.

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