EL PASO — More than 1,000 people, many of them undocumented immigrants, joined together Saturday to urge President Barack Obama to get behind them so they can become U.S. citizens.
“We are calling the president to present a specific immigration reform proposal in Congress before April 30th that will bring a solution,” said Fernando Garcia, a coordinator of the rally.
Law-abiding people who are working in America and contributing to the U.S. economy should be given a clear path to citizenship, said many of the marchers.
“Immigrants come to the U.S. to improve their conditions and to try to contribute to the economy of the nation through their hard work, not to take other people’s jobs,” said Jesus Castellanos, who said he was in the United States illegally for decades before becoming a citizen during an amnesty period.
He was among those who gathered at the University of Texas at El Paso and then marched Downtown to San Jacinto Plaza.
Groups such as the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which was not represented at the rally, counter that amnesty for millions of people who entered the country illegally would hurt the U.S. economy. The group said 25 million Americans are unemployed or working part time because only part-time jobs are available.
Granting citizenship to undocumented workers would worsen the situation, the organization says.
Other organizations such as the Border Network for Human Rights and the League of Latin American Citizens backed those seeking amnesty.
The most common problem is that parents who enter the United States without proper documentation have children who are U.S. citizens by virtue of their birthright.
People at the rally said current immigration laws are hurting families by splitting them.
“Families are being separated and held in detention centers. We need to stop this,” said Garcia, of the Border Network for Human Rights.
Those who stood with him said granting citizenship to those already in America is simple justice.
“This country is made out of immigrants, and they are not the problem. They come here to work and support their families and most of the time they don’t get the rights they deserve,” said Pat Delgado, 65, an American who married a man from Mexico.
Marchers waved U.S. and Mexican flags and colorful banners.
A dance group performed a Mexican routine at the plaza, where emotions ran high.
“Events like this one are good for the community because they bring the people together to emphasize the importance of this issue and make their voices heard,” said Angelica Ogaz, who said she is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.
The El Paso march coincided with similar demonstrations in Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas and New Jersey.
Diana Arrieta may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 546-6354.