Ketzi Hernandez joined
Hernandez is one of 800,000 undocumented young people, known as “Dreamers.” They were brought into the United States by their parents and protected from deportation until recently under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was implemented in 2012. The program was rescinded last year, and Congress is currently negotiating new rules governing the immigration status of Dreamers.
Coca-Cola supports efforts to preserve and update DACA to give young people who were brought to the U.S. equal and full access to the American Dream.
“Coca-Cola is and always has been for everyone,” said Humberto Garcia-Sjogrim,
As the world’s largest beverage company and a major employer, the
“We recognize that the success of our business, like many others, is directly linked to the diversity of our associates, business partners and the communities we all serve," The
The changing and complex immigration rules are difficult to navigate, not only for employers, but especially for Dreamers. Most simply want to work and pay taxes in the U.S. and don’t have resources to sort out confusing paperwork.
To help in these cases,
“Dreamers are not giving up. We’re not giving up on them,” said Garcia-Sjogrim.
Given the timeliness and importance of DACA,
Hernandez, who is a member of the Hispanic Leadership BRG, was on the panel. As a three-year-old traveling with her mother, she made the arduous journey across the desert from Guanajuato, Mexico, to Atlanta. She attended high school and college in the Atlanta area, which she considers home.
A few years ago, she had to resign from another Fortune 500 company due to a lapse in her documentation. Coping with the immigration rules, she said, has been “like a roller coaster ride, with so many emotions up and down.”
Now that she’s employed by
The Hispanic Leadership’s BRG panel was moderated by David Schaefer, managing director of advocacy for the Latin American Association. He described Georgia’s 24,000 Dreamers as “highly educated people” who are “part of the fabric” of communities across the country.
“They’re not just here to contribute through manual labor," Schaefer said. "Many are professionals with advanced degrees working as lawyers and teachers.”
Immigrants are not only seeking employment, but also starting businesses and creating jobs. “My company was started by an immigrant and has transformed into a multi-billion business,” said Leonardo Lopez, a Dreamer who works for Greensky in Atlanta. “Every day I'm exposed to people who started their business when they got to this country, and now they're doing amazing things.”
Another Dreamer on the Hispanic Leadership BRG panel was Fr. Rey Pineda. After moving from Mexico to Atlanta as a child, he attended seminary school. His path to becoming a priest, however, was blocked because he had no documents. After DACA was established in 2012, he was hired by the Cathedral of Christ the King in Atlanta.
Now, as a Dreamer, his immigration status is once again uncertain. “As a man of faith I’m hopeful but not blind to the reality. I have a real sense that people are tired and exhausted from the gridlock. I’m hopeful that is going to motivate us to move forward. I believe that better days are ahead, and now it’s just a matter of doing our part to ensure that.”
“This is a comprehensive conversation,” said Curtis Etherly, director, Government Relations ,
Even more important than changing policy is changing hearts and minds through open and honest conversation about the challenging and complex issues involving immigration. “Have courage to stand up and do what's right,” said Fr. Pineda. “Don't be afraid to speak up. You will gain respect. It's about changing hearts to make it last.”
Hernandez added, “It's a waiting game for us but you can be proactive. You can make the change for us. Help us change the world.”