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The group Organizing for Action supports the Senate's version of a bill to reform immigration policy.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Manuel Avila (left) takes a photograph of Eli Salgado (center) of Bassett and other people from Martinsville and Henry County who attended a rally in support of comprehensive immigration reform. The rally was held at Elmwood Park in downtown Roanoke Sunday.
Monday, July 1, 2013
Eli Salgado wanted the crowd to know that he is not a criminal.
And neither are most of the millions of undocumented immigrants, like him, who came to the United States in the past couple of decades.
“People have come here to have a better life since the beginning,” Salgado told a crowd of about 45 who gathered in Roanoke on Sunday at a rally to support immigration reform.
Sunday’s event at Elmwood Park was billed by organizers as a “victory celebration” following last week’s Senate approval of an immigration bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for some immigrants who have lived in the U.S. illegally. The bill would also significantly increase the number of security agents along the U.S.-Mexican border.
Salgado, 23, was one of about a half-dozen people to speak. He said that he was brought illegally by his parents to the United States from Mexico when he was 4 years old. He grew up in Patrick and Henry counties and graduated from Bassett High School.
“But I can’t go to college because I don’t have a social security number,” he said in an interview before the event.
He has applied for assistance under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program President Barack Obama initiated last year. The program is intended to help undocumented people who were brought to the U.S. as children legally obtain work or continue their education.
Although he has not been granted deferred action, Salgado is speaking publicly about the need for reform.
“I am stepping out of the shadows because I want my story to be known,” he told the audience.
The Roanoke and Franklin County chapter of Organizing for Action sponsored Sunday’s event. The group is a spin-off of the Organizing for America project that supported Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012 and works for passage of the president’s legislative goals.
Eddie Seay, who heads the group’s local chapter, said that Organizing for Action supports the Senate’s bill because the group believes it provides the possibility of citizenship, will improve security, will prevent businesses from hiring illegal immigrants and will protect immigrant families by keeping them together in the United States.
“The Senate’s action last week was a big victory for us,” Seay said.
The bill faces an uncertain future in the House of Representatives, however. Majority leader John Boehner has said that the House will pursue its own bill.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte , R-Roanoke County , the 6th District representative who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has also criticized the Senate bill and prefers a step-by-step approach rather than comprehensive reforms.
“The bill repeats many of the same mistakes made in the 1986 immigration law, which got us into this mess in the first place,” Goodlatte said in a statement released Thursday. “Among my many concerns, the Senate bill does not adequately address the interior enforcement of our immigration laws and allows the Executive Branch to waive many, if not most, of the bill’s requirements. While the Senate has every right to pass solutions it deems appropriate, the House does as well. That’s the American legislative process.”
Seay said members of his group met with Goodlatte and 5th District Rep. Robert Hurt , R-Chatham , two weeks ago to encourage them to support immigration reforms.
“We want to send a message not just to Goodlatte but all Virginia congressmen that they should be supporting this issue,” Seay said.
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