HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM)– A former president of the Dominican Republic took a tour of the Pennsylvania state capitol and talked about the increasing numbers of Dominicans in the commonwealth.
But Leonel Fernandez, who spent much of his life legally in America, also discussed the thorny issue of immigration and his take might surprise you.
“So, Mr. President, I have a proclamation and we call a citation from the House of Representatives,” State Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks County) said.
Former Speaker of the House, Rozzi greeted the former three-time president of the Dominican Republic.
“As you know very well, we have a large Dominican population here in Pennsylvania,” Fernandez said.
Fernandez estimates 2.4 million in the U.S. and 300,000 in Pennsylvania. Lots in Rozzi’s Berks County district.
“They are friends to OUR people,” Rozzi said. “There are some of the nicest people that I’ve ever met. And they’re here for the right reasons, you know, to give their families a better opportunity.”
Fernandez was born in the Dominican, educated in New York City and says many Dominicans are migrating down to Pa.
“I think it’s less expensive for people to live here,” Fernandez said. “They feel more and more safety here in Pennsylvania.”
Worker for Pa. House Democrats Francis Rodriguez is one of them.
“Well, I guess the same reason that many looking for new opportunities, trying to explore horizons,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez, born in raised in the Dominican, and interned at the palace when Fernandez was president. She moved from New York a year ago and now works for House Democrats.
“My role is to make sure that someone that doesn’t speak English knows what’s going on with the policies…that they know that they have representative here raising their voices for them,” Rodriguez said.
Proclamations and reunions are nice but immigration is a contentious topic in America these days. This president lived in the U.S. and knows many others yearn to.
“They look to America for guidance and for leadership, and you have to open the doors to do that,” Fernandez said.
Open doors yes but the former president says this of open and unregulated borders.
No,” Fernandez said. “I mean, you need a border. You need to control the border. And everything has to be done legally, not in the disorder way, chaotic way. That’s unacceptable in any part of the world.”