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National Campaign seeks to return attention in U.S. Congress back to Immigration Reform

Roughly 100,000 people are planned to rally in Washington, D.C. in March

By Ingrid Marie Rivera, La Prensa Correspondent


LORAIN: Latino and other leaders are uniting around the nation to turn the attention in U.S. Congress back to immigration reform after they say President Barack Obama has failed to address the issue in his first year in office as he had promised.


Nick Torres, Rubn Castilla Herrera, and Victor Leandry discuss Immigration Reform.

Through the national campaign, Reform Immigration For America, immigrant, labor, business and faith leaders around the country are hoping to recruit more than 100,000 people to rally in Washington, D.C., on March 21, 2010, in hopes of pressuring legislators to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill this year.


They are still looking to fill buses around the country with more people and take them to the nation's capital.

Two leaders of the Ohio chapter of the Reform Immigration For America campaign Rubn Castilla Herrera and Nick Torres met with Lorain's El Centro Executive Director Victor Leandry Feb. 24, 2010 to discuss how to get people mobilized for immigration reform.


In Northeast Ohio, (immigration reform) may not be a top issue, said Herrera, Ohio Director for the Reform Immigration for America campaign, but he added the issue it affects us all. We're talking about the economy...So the question is how do we move forward? We want to create a movement, he said.


The Busses En Route to D.C.

Herrera and Torres said they are still looking for people to fill 10 buses departing from various cities around Ohio en route to Washington, D.C., for the rally. Details are not final yet but plans are to have three buses depart from Columbus, two from Cincinnati, one from Toledo, one from Cleveland, possibly one from Lorain, Canton, Dayton, Youngstown, or Painesville or Ashtabula area.

For the latest bus route information visit the campaign's web site at http://wemarchforamerica.org  


Herrera said the campaign will cover about half the transportation cost - roughly $30 per person another quarter of the costs may be fundraised and the last quarter of the cost may be paid by the participants.

U.S. Rep. Luis Gutirrez helped introduce a proposal in the U.S. House of Representatives in December 2009, and now this national campaign is pushing for a bill to be introduced and passed in the U.S. Senate no later than three months from now, Herrera said.


According to Herrera, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) could push for a bipartisan bill with a third Republican senator. Herrera said his Ohio team is trying to get U.S. Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-OH) or U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) to come on board.


We have not spoken directly to Voinivich only to his close staff, Herrera said but I think there's hope and we're going to keep working with him, he said.


The comprehensive immigration reform strives to protect both U.S. and immigrant workers, offers undocumented immigrants an earned pathway to citizenship, provide sufficient visas, create a strategic border enforcement policy that enhances the nation's security in a rational and humane way while keeping families together, and while still enforcing measures against the worst violators of immigration and labor laws.


Herrera and Torres said the immigration reform should not take a backseat to the economy and health care reform on the President's to-do list.


It's such a critical issue for the economy, said Torres, Ohio Grassroots Organizer for Reform Immigration For America, You can't build an economy on a broken immigration system.


Herrera added: Obama said he would address this in his first year. We're holding him accountable. This is not just a Latino issue but were a force that needs to be reconciled with.


But the rally is not the only way Herrera and Torres have been planning to get Washington's attention. During the week of Feb. 15 to 19, 2010, hundreds of people around the state of Ohio organized visits and made over 1,000 phone calls to several legislators.


They plan to do more phone banks, to be announced on their web site.


Its that pressure to let them know this issue is not going to die, Torres said This is not an issue that can be ignored. We have to be more direct, he said.


Victor Leandry told Herrera and Torres that their timing is perfect in pushing this issue forward. Leandry, along with two of his El Centro Staff members, Greg Hickman, Youth Leadership Coordinator, and Jared Prez, caseworker, and two Lorain County Community College students Alejandro DeJess and Marinelly Simmonds will travel to Washington, D.C., March 1 4, 2010 for the National Council of La Razas Capital Awards Week and Advocacy Day. They will receive training, and speak with various politicians about immigration reform.


Leandry said that even though he is a U.S. citizen, immigration reform is very important to him. He said passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill is the best way to curb the anti-immigration sentiment and discrimination in the country.


Leandry said Not passing this bill opens the door to discrimination especially against the Latino community...Immigrant families want their voices heard but are so fearful to speak up. So thats where we need other Latinos to step forward and start this wave for them, he said.


Herrera will be visiting other parts of Ohio this week, including stops in Toledo, Ohio.


For more information on the Washington, D.C. rally or to sign up for a bus, call (866) 877-5944 or visit the campaign's web site at http://wemarchforamerica.org
In espaol visit: http://marchaporamerica.org




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