ROCHESTER — A small crowd braved a windy, bitter cold last month to call for comprehensive immigration reform that focuses on citizenship, keeping families together and fair treatment for the region’s migrant workers.
The group of people holding signs stood in front of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s local office on State Street on March 22 as speakers with a megaphone highlighted the issues that they said must be addressed to make reform meaningful for millions of undocumented workers across the country.
"Up to 1 million undocumented immigrants in New York state are trapped in a system that makes it impossible to obtain lawful status, even if they have lived here since they were children, have paid their taxes, or have children who are American citizens," said KaeLyn Rich, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Genesee Valley chapter.
The rally was one of a series being held across the state and the country, speakers explained, to urge the U.S. Senate’s bipartisan "Gang of Eight" — which Schumer is part of — to introduce immigration legislation that will include:
* a realistic pathway to citizenship;
* restoration of due process, judicial review and basic fairness to the immigration system; and
* humane treatment of immigrants in detention centers.
Schumer has stated that the fundamentals for reform are in place if key principles are made a part of any reform legislation. Such principles include secure borders, an employer verification system and a registration system for those who are undocumented that will lead to a legal status and family reunification, according to www.schumer.senate.gov/Issues/immigration.htm.
Neither Schumer nor a representative were present during the March 22 rally.
"I am not proud that the current immigration system tears families apart," noted Rich. "I am not proud that there are no legal (or) binding rules to ensure that immigrants in detention centers receive humane treatment or access to basic medical care. That is not what America is about."
Ana Ceria-Gúzman, one of several St. Michael Church parishioners who came out to the rally, agreed that treatment of these workers has to change.
"We want the government to legalize them so they can live without fear and work in peace," she said. "This affects all Hispanics because they are human beings just like us."
Colin O’Malley, organizing director for Metro Justice, asked the nearly dozen people who attended the rally to bombard their congressional representatives with calls for reform. Many of those who attended the rally also are part of New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform, a statewide campaign supported by 130 labor, faith and immigrant organizations.
O’Malley said that the state campaign will include a trip to Washington, D.C., to join in a national rally planned for early April.
"We know this sort of movement requires continual efforts," he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information or to register for the trip to Washington, D.C., contact Metro Justice at 585-325-2560 or email@example.com.