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Activists caravan to Bakersfield to rally, urge immigration reform

August 14, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is a new campaign to overhaul the nation's immigration laws. Hundreds of immigration reform activists from Los Angeles and thousands from across the state traveled by car, bus and motorcycle to Bakersfield Wednesday, hoping to get their message out to a key lawmaker.

Organizers are calling it the largest caravan in California history.

Activists held a rally at the office of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield. They say he along with the top Republican leaders have been dragging their feet when it comes to immigration reform, and they need him to act now.

"The message to Congressman McCarthy, the third-ranking GOP member in the House, our representative, is we want a vote on immigration reform with a path to citizenship now," said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, with the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

Thousands of labor workers from across the state also made the journey. Since the Senate passed an immigration bill in June, activists have been out in force trying to convince House Republicans to do the same.

"Thus far, during the first two weeks of August, 22 House members have already said yes to immigration reform and a path to citizenship," said Cabrera, "The pressure is working."

But anti-immigration reform groups don't believe it's working. Jim Gilchrist is the founder of the Minuteman Project, an organization dedicated to protecting our borders from illegal immigrants. He says House Republicans stand to lose votes if they pass reform.

"At what point do we have so many people in the United States that we're no longer a civilized society, or be considered an economic global power because we have so many people here?" said Gilchrist.

But activists are convinced their actions will go far in helping legalize the more than 11 million undocumented people now living in the U.S.

"They have family back home that they can't travel and see them. They got parents back home and they can't travel and see them," said Joe Macias, with Local Union 250. "People are dying in other countries, and the people are stuck here and can't even go see their families; that's wrong."

McCarthy released the following statement Wednesday morning:

"I think that it is always healthy to have a dialogue on the important issues of the day, and I welcome folks coming to visit Bakersfield. While I have met with many groups across the spectrum of the immigration reform debate, in the end, I value the input of my constituents in the 23rd Congressional District most. I have long said that our immigration system is broken, but rather than take up the Senate bill, the House will move in a step by step approach that first secures the border."

McCarthy was not at his Bakersfield office Wednesday. He and other Republican leaders are on an annual trip to Israel.

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