Gowdy holds listening session on immigration reform

June 11, 2013

​U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy told residents gathered to talk about immigration reform on Friday that it is a complex issue and he will focus on “border security” in any updating of current law.

He said when most Americans are polled about immigration reform, the top three issues are “border security, border security and border security.”

“That’s how your fellow citizens feel,” he said during a meeting at the University Center.

Gowdy heard a request for help from Laurie Rovin, executive director of Pendleton Place for Children and Families in Greenville.

She said she was seeing an influx of immigrant children, many of whom are seeking U.S. status. “These are the children who show up at the border because they’ve experienced abuse or trauma,” Rovin said.

“I’d like for you to work with us and these children,” she said. Gowdy said he would try to help.

Sara Montero-Buria, who coordinates language services at Greenville Health System, said she arrived in Greenville from Mexico as a girl. Now 27, she is a bi-lingual citizen.

She said her father worked 80 hours weekly to provide for his family and pave her a way to success.

“My immigrant story is a positive one,” she said. “I went from being undocumented to being a citizen with a master’s degree.”

Stepping up to the microphone after Buria made her statements, Gowdy said, “You’re exactly the kind of person I want to share my country with.”

The United Way of Greenville and the Hispanic Alliance helped organize the meeting as a “listening session.”

Ted Hendry, United Way’s president, said his agency had no position on immigration. He said his non-profit paired with Hispanic Alliance because he thought it was part of the United Way’s job to help conduct such public discussions.

“It’s just what we do,” he said. “We convene a conversation about these kinds of things. Diversity is an important issue affecting Hispanics.”

Adela Mendoza, executive director of the Hispanic Alliance, said, “Many of us have experienced our ineffectual immigration system. It’s clear we all have a desire to find a solution toward immigration.”

Mendoza, now a U.S. citizen with a master’s degree, heads the non-profit.

Saying he was there to listen, Gowdy said the nation’s immigration laws are flawed. “The law is important,” said Gowdy, a former prosecutor. “And it has to be enforced.”