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Immigration Marchers Weigh In On Bill Before Congress

Hundreds of Latino residents and supporters of immigration reform marched in Milwaukee Wednesday. Organizers have established May 1 as their annual demonstration for worker rights.

It started on the near south side and ended with a rally at Pere Marquette Park downtown. People carried signs reading “Stop Deporting Families” and “Path to Citizenship Now.”

Some of those slogans – and many of the marchers, have been part of prior May Day rallies. Yet Anita Orozco says this year’s had a different feel to it.

“We have been marching for the last six, seven years and we’re almost within grasp of the immigration now. It’s like, our time is now,” Orozco says.

Orozco says she’s more optimistic, because Congress is finally poised to debate a bill creating a path to citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally.

“They’re in the lowest paying jobs. Most of them started coming here to agricultural work and now they’re either in garment industries or very low paying jobs and if they can come out of the shadows, they can get an education and get better jobs because without an education they can’t do anything,” Orozco says.

Orozco says she was born in the U.S., but her parents came here from Mexico. She describes the measure that four Republican and four Democratic U. S. senators wrote as, not perfect – but a start. Their bill would create a 13-year-path to citizenship for those who entered the U. S. illegally before 2012.

Pedro Montero says was born in Mexico and is still in the process of obtaining citizenship. He thinks 13 years is too long to wait.

“I agree with a long time but not that long. At least say, five years, that would be better. People are here to work and students are here to study. They have more opportunity here than any other country and they’re just trying to do better for themselves,” Montero says.

Montero says he agrees however, with provisions in the bill requiring people to pay fines and back taxes during their quest for citizenship, along with submitting to background checks.

Heather Puri stood on the periphery of the rally with her husband - a native of India who recently obtained his green card. Puri calls 13 years, fair.

“The process is long for those who go through it the right way. 13 years, it’s a penalty for not going through the right channels but still allows them to access citizenship at a later time,” Puri says.

Puri predicts lawmakers will attempt to amend the immigration reform bill. The Senate Judiciary committee is set to vote, next week.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.