Woman challenges former lawmakers on immigration

She wanted to know why families like hers should take a back seat when it comes to deciding who gets to live here.

Her name is Denia Perez and her parents came to the United States legally but then overstayed their visas.

Perez made her comments to the Bipartisan Policy Center's Immigration Task Force. And it is an impressive group that consists of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour and former cabinet members Henry Cisneros and Hilda Solis.

Rice said they came to the Bay Area to hear from technology leaders.

"And in listening to these tech leaders you recognize the importance of immigration reform to them," she said.

While rice talked about the need to attract high skilled immigrants, Barbour talked about the need for low skilled labor.

"If you go into a chicken processing plant where we process two and a half billion dollars' worth of chickens, nobody speaks English," he said.

Perez spoke family unification and the American dream.

"The best example of what America stands for and what America is and what makes this nation so great, have been my parents and my family," she said.

Perez wanted to know why some on the panel want to cut family visa's in favor of work visas.

"The people who come here work, I mean, my parents came to reunite with their family but obviously they needed to work as well so I don't think it has to be so separate," she said.

Barbour says there has been too much emphasis on reuniting families.

"We should think in terms of people who help the American economy. People who work," he said.

But former Los Angeles Congressman Howard Berman agreed with Perez.

"Certainly we have to maintain our family based immigration system," he said.

Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell told Perez there has to be compromise.

"There's going to have to be some give and take there's going to have to be some give and take on all sides of the issue," he said.

Perez's argument is that the spirit that drives people to come to the United States in search of a better life is just as important as the skills they bring with them.

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