LOS ANGELES – Wilmer Valderrama, an American actor of Colombian and Venezuelan descent, is urging his Hispanic colleagues to use their celebrity status to assist victims of recent natural disasters and fight for the rights of undocumented immigrants in the United States.
He said Latino celebrities had much to contribute to longstanding efforts to pass a comprehensive immigration overhaul bill that would provide a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented migrants in the US.
“I know we’re all afraid of being attacked if we say we’re immigrants,” Valderrama told EFE. “But I think we as artists shouldn’t forget where we came from, and telling our story as immigrants can help humanize the immigration story. Being an immigrant is a blessing.”
An actor best known for his role in the sitcom “That ‘70s Show,” Valderrama showed his support for migrants by attending a ceremony Tuesday at the Los Angeles Convention Center in which a group of 10,000 immigrants, many of them Latinos, were sworn as new US citizens.
Speaking after the naturalization ceremony, Valderrama stressed the importance of taking that step.
“I want to tell our Latin American families that they need to make the effort to become citizens to be able to defend our rights as Latinos in the United States,” the actor said.
“There are lots of rights that come with citizenship. We have the right to vote, and the more members of our families who become citizens the more power we’ll have to elect people who will defend us,” he argued.
“We see a lot of passion” at immigrant-rights demonstrations, Valderrama said, though adding that “if we’re going to shout, let’s become citizens and shout with our vote.”
Valderrama, who is part of a campaign by Scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker to celebrate US cultural progress and diversity, said the influence celebrities can exercise was apparent at an event last weekend.
The actor participated on Saturday at a benefit concert and telethon led by Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez that raised more than $35 million for victims of the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean and the US and the earthquakes in Mexico.