June 2, 2009 (San Diego) – “This economy is built off immigrants, and immigration reform will benefit the economy,” El Cajon resident and Center for Social Advocacy spokesperson Estela De Los Rios said at a press conference Friday in San Diego, where community leaders announced launch of the Reform Immigration For America Campaign (www.immigrationforum.org).
De Los Rios has traveled to Washington D.C. three times this year and is optimistic that Congress will take up immigration reform by year’s end. This week, De Los Rios will again meet in Washington D.C. with representatives of more than 300 organizations in 25 states. The coalition ncludes faith leaders, human rights advocates, labor groups and immigrant organizations. The groups hope to reach agreement on a comprehensive immigration reform proposal to present to the Obama administration in the coming days. De Los Rios said details will be worked out during the conference in Washington, but she would support background checks for immigrants as well as reasonable fees for those of good moral character who are already here but wish to legalize their status.
“Labor has united across the country and is calling for immigration reform,” said Sandra Diaz, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1877 representative. “We’re facing one of the toughest crises our nation has ever seen,” she said. “Employers are taking advantage by lowering wages and violating even the eight-hour work day rule,” she said. “We need to change the laws to protect all working families in the U.S.” Bringing undocumented workers out of the shadows and allowing them to organize will prevent exploitation, she believes.
Rosa Lopez, a supermarket worker who has lived here for 20 years, said she has worked hard nights to send her children to school, and just saw her son graduate from high school. “I became a new citizen last year and voted for the change,” she said, “and I will work hard for immigration reform.”
Rev. Madison Shockley, Pilgrim United Church of Christ, said he sees "only people, not boundaries" and supports immigration reform to enable families to be reunited. He added, "I serve a God that speaks every language and knows everyone's heart." David Schmidt, an organizer with Si Se Puede (Yes, We Can) said he hopes to “stop the raids that are terrorizing the communities. “ He described a raid in which federal immigration officials brandished high-powered weapons while raiding a local restaurant, “terrorizing” workers. He also criticized the breaking apart of families under the present system since construction of the wall and, most recently, closure of Friendship Park on the San Diego-Tijuana border. Those changes have made it difficult or impossible for immigrants living in the U.S. to return home even for visits, he said. “I met a young lady who lives here in the U.S. She went down to Friendship Park. She hadn’t seen her relatives for years, but the Border Patrol would not let her walk up to the fence. They kept her 50 feet away the whole time, and all the people were weeping,” Schmidt recalled.
De Los Rios expressed hope that if a comprehensive immigration measure is enacted, “Families will not have to fear being deported.” She concluded, “We are all humans, and we all deserve human rights.”