Roughly 1,000 demonstrators gathered in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday to celebrate May Day by demanding the federal government recognize the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States and allow them to apply for citizenship. In San Bernardino, a similar gathering attracted a few hundred more participants.
The Gang of Eight, a group of Republican and Democrat senators working on immigration reform, is proposing legislation that would allow immigrants who emigrated illegally under the age of 16 to apply for citizenship if they get a high school diploma or GED.
The legislation would also allow undocumented immigrants to receive provisional legal status, later becoming legal citizens if they wait ten years and pay fines and back taxes. Employers would be compelled to use E-Verify to check prospective employees, and the the Department of Homeland Security would be required to draft new border fencing and security strategies.
Demonstrators in San Bernardino shouted in Spanish, “Obama, listen. We are in the fight.” In Los Angeles, some demonstrators held up American flags, while others held up the Mexican flag or the flags of other Latin American countries.
Gloria Godoy, founder of the group Organizacion Atescatempa, was born in Guatemala but became a citizen in 2005, said:
Congress has changed their hearts of stone. They have realized that we Latinos are people of honor, that we work hard, and that we contribute to the economy. We were once foreigners and now we’re here. This is our country. This is our flag. This is the country I defend.
There was opposition; in Brea, where dozens of people met to demonstrate against the immigration proposals, Raymond Herrera, founder of We The People California’s Crusader, which sponsored the rally, said, “We’re here to stop the Obama administration, President Obama and the ‘Gang of Eight’ with proposals of amnesty, which is the same old rhetoric, again.”
Roy Beck, the president of Numbers USA, said that current proposals would allow about 33 million people to immigrate here in the first ten years if the current legislation is passed. He said, “It’s going to drive people in the lower-middle class (out.) They’re going to leave the middle class.”