WENATCHEE — “Hello, my name is Daniela. I am a volunteer with the … She hung up on me!”
If 10-year-old Daniela Torres was offended by the hang-up, she didn’t dwell on it.
Her eyes returned to the computer screen in search of the next registered voter to call to give her pitch for a sweeping immigration-reform bill now facing a tough battle in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Wearing purple stretch leggings, a neat French braid and a navy-blue T-shirt proclaiming in fluorescent letters that she’d earned a A+ in “Being Awesome,” the young lobbyist stands out even among the small, youth-dominated group that gathers for Thursday call nights at the local non-profit Community for the Advancement of Family Education (CAFE).
This local, non-profit Hispanic-advocacy group is working with Seattle-based non profit One America to drum up support for a bill that proposes legal residency and a path to citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants, but also tighter border security, stiffer penalties for violators and an agile system for employers to verify the migratory status of job applicants.
The national scope of the many-faceted, big-money bill boils down to one thing for Daniela and three of her fellow callers who have all been affected by the deportation of a parent.
“Immigration is personal for me. I want to prevent others from losing their parents,” said Alicia Solano, 20. She, her sister Amancia, 16, and brother Manuel, 15, worked three of the other five, call-night laptops.
All are products of CAFE’s efforts to encourage leadership and community service among young people.
The Solanos’ parents split up. Their mother was deported five years ago. She still calls them from her native Mexico. Daniela’s dad was deported when she was 4. He also calls.
Her mom, a close friend of the Solanos, works several jobs.
Daniela, a fifth grader this year at Wenatchee’s Columbia Elementary, defers to other group members’ more eloquently expressed motivations for call night, saying instead that she just likes to work on the computer.
But she gets it.
“Sometimes families get, like, separated, because they’re not citizens,” she said, thinking hard and speaking carefully. “I wouldn’t go out, and I’d feel really sad if my mom went away.”
“Daniela does great,” Alicia said during a break in the calling. “Sometimes when someone hangs up on us, we stop to complain about it — Like, that was rude! — but she just goes on. She probably ends up calling more people than any of us.”
Daniela’s fingers brushed the mouse pad to select the “Hung Up” option on the screen and danced over the keyboard to immediately call the next name on the list.
On that night last week, they canvassed voters in the Spokane area of Republican Congresswoman’s Cathy McMorris Rodgers’ 5th District. They’d finished in Chelan and Douglas counties several weeks ago.
The next voter let Daniela read through her entire scripted message, which urges the voter to call McMorris Rodgers and express support for the bill.
Several more voters hung up on her, but she stayed motivated and kept calling.
“I think, like, maybe, the next person will be nicer,” she said.