ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Immigration reform may be in the hands of federal lawmakers, but that the battle for public support will be fought in local communities.
That's the thought behind a new mobilization effort launched Wednesday at the State Capitol, designed tobuild grassroots momentum for a lasting policy changes.
A coalition of labor rights advocates, faith leaders and people who work with immigrants on legal issues held a press conference featuring people with firsthand knowledge of the barriers that exist for those who trying to move to the U.S.
Mitch Azarcon's family emigrated from the Philippines when she was 20-years-old, some 25 years after her mother first applied for permission to come toAmerica.
"I am a surgical tech. My brother is a nursing assistant. My sister just graduated from her first job," Azarcon, of Rochester, told reporters.
"Our country is better off having hard-work immigrants as contributing members of our communities."
Azarcon is a member of the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, which is a part of the immigrant rights coalition.
Javier Morillo, president of SEIU Local 26, pointed out that there was a time that labor unions in the U.S. were opposed to immigration reform. That is no longer the case.
In fact, Char Knutson, the president of the AFL-CIO of Minnesota, also spoke out at the news conference about the need to end the workplace exploitation of immigrants who fear deportation.
Uriel Rosales, a college student who belongs to a group known as Navigate, said he came to the U.S. from Mexico at age 9 to find his parents. They had left a family farm in Mexico because when the currency crashed following implementation of the NAFTA trade agreement.
Rosales is applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program President Obama initiated throuh executive order in 2012. It is designed to give undocumented immigrants brought here as children a change to avoid forced deportation and work toward obtaining legal residency.
"I was so happy with President Obama's words," he said.
"It remindedof the pain in our families due to separation, the fear of being stopped and questioned by police, and the feeling of powerlessness against labor injustice, simply because we fear being fired."
A group of eight US Senators this week announced a compromise immigration reform bill designed to streamline the immigration process, help American employers verify immigration status, and create a path to citizenship for those who entered the country without permission.