BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Pedro Rios, a former Delano City Council member and now a Republican candidate for the state Assembly, came to this country as an undocumented immigrant in his youth.
Rios said Wednesday that he "will not lie" about how he came to the United States illegally. But, until asked about it by Eyewitness News, Rios had avoided mentioning the illegal nature of his immigration during his campaign ads or on his website. His campaign materials only said he came to the United States as a 9-year-old boy. He went on to earn his American citizenship.
Rios is running for the 32nd Assembly seat against Democrat Rudy Salas.
Rios also had the somewhat surprising stance of opposing the DREAM Act, a bill that would have provided a path to legalization for many immigrants. DREAM stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors.
A different federal program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is currently allowing young illegal immigrants to avoid, or delay, deportation and get a work permit.
Rios said he supports "a true dream" or young immigrants gaining citizenship, education and jobs, calling the DREAM Act a "Band-Aid" being "used for political gain."
Opponent Salas said he supports the DREAM Act and can't understand why Rios also isn't in support.
"You would think he would be more sympathetic," Salas said.
Eyewitness News contacted Republican party leaders Wednesday for their reaction to Rios' admission that he was once an undocumented immigrant. Javier Reyes, a member of the Kern County Republican Party and an aide to GOP Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, of Bakersfield, downplayed the illegal immigration, saying Rios has since proven himself as a successful businessman and community member.