Local leaders urge community to rally for immigration reform

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With chants of "Reform now," and "The people united, would never be defeated," local immigration rights supporters filled the halls of St. Charles Borromeo School in Arlington April 2 to convince people to join them in urging Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration reform.

At the press conference, dozens of people carrying signs asked the community to join them April 10 at the Washington rally for immigration reform that would offer a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

"We have worked with many local leaders. Faiths have come together to make this marvelous dream a reality," said Father Jose E. Hoyos, director of the Arlington diocesan Spanish Apostolate, who encouraged the community to come out for the rally.

Father Hoyos and other religious representatives participated in the press conference to show that many faiths support a just immigration reform.

"We are not talking about illegal people. These are human beings, not numbers," Father Hoyos said in Spanish. "To all those who are already American citizens, let's support those who are not. Let's not be satisfied with saying that we are citizens and leave others behind."

Walter Tejada, chairman of the Arlington County Board, asked Northern Virginians to protect the American tradition of family, worship and political participation by stopping deportations and keeping families together.

"There are some things in life that transcend whatever personal preferences that we may have and comprehensive immigration reform is the thing that unites all of us," Tejada said at the press conference.

Rally organizers expect tens of thousands of people, including immigrants' families, and labor and immigrant rights supporters to make their demands clear to Congress at the U.S. Capitol. Many of the people at the rally will come from Virginia, Maryland and Washington, said Gustavo Torres, the president of CASA in Action, one of the nonprofits organizing the rally.

Local organizers added that showing up at the rally was even more important now that the Senate announced they are close to reaching some kind of immigration reform. The details of this bipartisan progress in drafting a law to reform the immigration system in the U.S. are still unknown.

Immigration rights supporters, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, are asking for a reform that includes a clear path to citizenship for the undocumented, a future flow worker program and a family-based immigration reform.

Father Hoyos said that the rally was the best venue to defend immigrants' human rights and added that the church, as a beacon of morality, should participate.

"Our Bishop (Paul S. Loverde) has given us his support to participate in these rallies, so we can welcome our people, our communities of immigrants, who are the majority of those who come to church," Father Hoyos told the Catholic Herald. "Also, the Gospel tells us that when a country welcomes the stranger, it becomes blessed. And I think that the United States will receive many blessings."

The press conference ended with a prayer thanking God for arriving to the "historic moment when reform is possible" and asking for "courage and persistence to go to the streets and ask for justice."

Negro can be reached at mnegro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @MNegroACH.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970