Video by Dominick DiFurio | Multimedia Reporter
Thousands of immigrants and supporters wearing red T-shirts, holding signs with slogans like “We have rights,” “Stop the separation of families” and “Not all immigrants are criminals, not all criminals are immigrants” and chanting “Sí se puede” made their voices heard as they marched from Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish to the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse on Saturday.
The National Day of Action took place in 100 cities and towns across the U.S. with groups and supporters marching for dignity and respect in hopes to influence policy makers to take action on immigration reform.
Executive Director of Promise Arizona Petra Falcon said she hopes the marches will influence politicians to take a stand for immigration reform and take action.
“Twenty-six organizations have been working together for all this year talking to our members of Congress, working with senators (and) talking with local elected officials to send a message that we need a reform,” she said.
Falcon said the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are productive citizens providing for the economy.
“Eleven million people have contributed to this country. They’re a part of the economy. They’ve helped to grow this economy, and if we pass comprehensive immigration reform, the economy is going to explode,” she said.
The government officials need to stop the arguing and separation and bring everyone together, Falcon said.
“I’m happy to say that after today this governor and this Legislature need to hear that we need to be one state, not a divided state,” she said.
Mikel Weisser, a Congressional candidate for Arizona’s 4th Congressional District, said the event will be a platform to open the eyes of the state Legislature. Weisser said he hoped the overwhelming numbers who turned out for the march would open the eyes of the rest of the city.
“In mythology, there is a character named Chanticleer that wakes up other people,” he said. “That’s the purpose of this, and we need to wake up the rest of the crowd and rest of the city.”
Immigration in the U.S. has been a major issue for the past few years, and people are tired of the pathways to citizenship being so difficult for hardworking people, Weisser said.
“I think that immigration is inhumane and that we should have procedures to have legal immigration for economic refugees,” Weisser said. “Instead of making people slave labor or demonized, or having to get lost a dime a dozen because they’ve paid their life savings to coyotes, we should have a way for people to come in here.”
School children, college students and grandparents all participated in the march.
Tempe resident Junnyor Martinez was personally impacted by immigration laws when his brother was detained at a light rail station for not having proper identification and possessing outstanding parking tickets.
His brother was held for two months, resulting in Martinez’s family members having to raise $12,000 to get his brother released.
“There should be comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship,” he said. “I believe everybody is equal, different but equal, and the two months without my brother were the hardest of my life for me not having my role model and my mother not having her son.”
ASU alumna Renee Deyden, who has been marching for immigration reform since 2010, said she wants Congress to take action.
“Hopefully Congress will hold their promise and pass reform,” she said. “We’re not criminals.”
Martin Perez, a sixth grade teacher at Montebello School in Phoenix, said he was using the experience as a teaching tool for his students.
“I’m here because I’m a teacher, and I can relate to the issue from my background because now both my parents are citizens; they moved here from Mexico,” he said. “I’ve seen how some of the families are broken apart, and being in the classroom as a teacher, I’ve seen how some students are left with no parents or have family affected in different ways.”
The estimated 7,000 participants finished the march on the footsteps of the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse, where speakers talked about the difficulties of finding a pathway to citizenship.
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