A retired pastor is being recognized for his immigrant advocacy efforts in his hometown of Holland, Michigan. Beginning in the 1990s, the 62-year-old pastor started an effort that assisted hundreds of undocumented immigrants living in the community to find a way to acquire U.S. citizenship, according to the Geneseo Republic. As a fellow Latino, Andres Fierro told the source that he was committed to spreading a positive message to his community, and supporting undocumented immigrants was one of his passions.
Fierro told the source that he remembers some of the families coming into the church with grocery bags containing all their belongings and sleeping on the floor. However, he said that many families see drastic life changes within years of contacting Fierro.
“They’re doctors, lawyers, police officers. They’re contributors,” he told the Geneseo Republic. “Now some of them have better cars and houses than I do.”
As immigration reform laws continue to be observed and discussed for their integrity, there are many advocates coming forward to support undocumented immigrants and their families. According to CNN, a human rights group in Alabama recently relaunched their support hotline that enables undocumented immigrants report any mistreatment from law enforcement officials which are all being kept on file, which the group hopes will put an end to the violence someday soon.
After the September 2001 attacks, immigration laws got tighter and the economy started to go under, which Fierro said drove a lot of undocumented citizens out of the community. However, that has recently started to change, according to the Geneseo Republic.
“The Hispanic community is here to stay,” Fierro said. “This is the new Holland. It’s these kids who can speak English and Spanish – they might be more comfortable with English, but they can move between those two worlds. It’s a whole new generation of integration.”