Faith and community leaders joined over 300 hundred immigrant workers and their families at a march and prayer rally Wednesday in Hobbs calling on Congressman Steve Pearce and Republican leaders to move forward a fair and comprehensive immigration reform in the US House of Representatives. Demonstrators marched over two miles in the pouring rain to the Republican Party headquarters with a clear message: the time is now to move bipartisan legislation forward that provides a path to citizenship for the thousands of immigrants who are a part of New Mexico and essential to key industries in the state.
"We gather here today united in prayer so the light and wisdom of God illuminates our Congressman, Steve Pearce, and all other national leaders making decisions on behalf of our community," said Father Manuel Ibarra from St. Thomas Catholic Church in Lovington. "We need them to take into account the hard working immigrant families in the agricultural and oil and gas industries of Lea County. They are integral to our local economy and should feel secure and at home in our state."
Eduardo Garcia, who has lived in Lovington for ten years and works in the oil fields, said at the rally "Every day my wife and I get up with the dream that my three children will have a better life. So I go to work, but always with the uncertainty that I might not return home, because I was deported or got hurt on the job. Many of my co-workers have had accidents and some have even died in the oil fields. All I want is to be safe, provide for my family, and continue contributing to this community without fear of being separated from my loved ones."
Somos Lea County, a membership-based affiliate of statewide immigrant's rights organization Somos Un Pueblo Unido, organized the event with Our Lady of Guadalupe Church (Hobbs) and St. Thomas Catholic Church (Lovington) in conjunction with groups across the country who are reaching out to House Republicans. The demonstration comes on the heels of a recent report released by the Institute of Taxation and Economic Policy that shows that the legalization of undocumented workers would increase tax contributions to states and localities.
Lovington City Commissioner David Trujillo told the crowd at Hobbs City Park "Passing immigration reform now will only strengthen our local economy and support public safety. Immigration reform with a path to citizenship is a must in order to move New Mexico forward. It is not only the smart thing to do, but it's the right thing to do. These families have strong ties to our communities and they deserve to not be separated."
"Immigration should not be about politics. It's about human rights. It's about common sense,"added Arturo Muñoz, who has been working as an assistant veterinarian at a Lovington dairy farm for ten years. "Now is the time for communities and elected officials to work together to find a sensible, humane and common sense solution that will allow us to become citizens so we can fully contribute to this country and live without fear."
Lorena Murillo, an immigrant business owner in Hobbs, stressed that comprehensive immigration reform would not only put millions of undocumented immigrants on an earned path to citizenship, but would also address the backlog of legal immigrants who are currently in the lengthy and outdated immigration system.
"The current immigration law does not reflect the needs of our families. It can take up to 21 years to legalize your status if you are lucky to have a family member who can petition for you," Murillo said. "I have been in the process to legalize my status since 1995 because my parents are US citizens. But just like all immigrant families in this community, living in limbo has not stopped us from contributing to the growth of Lea County. My family is active in our church, pay taxes, and we have two businesses that provide jobs for other local residents."
Community groups, churches, and small business owners in Pearce's district will continue to work on developing an open dialogue with the Congressman who has publicly said he doesn't support a path to citizenship for undocumented families. The groups will host events and in-district meetings, phone bank, collect petitions, and share their stories with Republican leaders in the state.