Written by Community Editor Nicole FoulkeNorristown became a platform for immigration reform this week, when the Service Employees International Union organized immigrants, union members, and DREAMers gathered at Los Potrillos Taqueria West Elm Street, to rally for reform, and then drove to the congressional offices of Congressmen Patrick Meehan and Jim Gerlach.
According to Julie Blust, spokeswoman of the SEIU’s 32BJ unit that organized the event, activists are rallying for the U.S. House of Representatives to pass comprehensive immigration reform to match the immigration reform legislation that the Senate passed earlier this year, which creates a path to citizenship.
“We want the House to pass a bill that is not watered down. The time to do this is now,” she said.
Alejandro Rojas, who came to the U.S. from Mexico, has two young sons, one born here, and one born in Mexico.
“Every day he asks me if he is going to be shipped back to Mexico,” he told the crowd in Spanish, through a translator, about his older son. “I want my sons to have the opportunity to go to college and be citizens.”
A woman named Maria, who came from the Mexican city Tlaxcala, immigrated with her two brothers, who were both deported.
“So I ask the reps to put themselves in our shoes just for one day to see if they would be happy with the life that we live, in the shadows,” she said to the crowd in Spanish through a translator.
After the rally the group split, and half went to visit The Trappe office of Congressman Jim Gerlach and the Blue Bell office of Congressman Pat Meehan, where they met with the congressmen's representatives, delivered post cards, and copies of an immigration report by the American Action Network.
According to the report, strong immigration reform would create 13,033 jobs in Gerlach’s district and 12,416 jobs in Meehan’s district.
While the congressmen’s representatives did not comment during the visits on where the congressmen stood on immigration, they listened to activists and said they would take their concerns to the congressmen.
While a representative from Gerlach’s office told Patch via email that the rally visitors were not from Gerlach’s district, Blust described to Patch a visit where those rallying felt that they were heard.
Gerlach, in a statement, said he's "working on solutions in the House that would secure our borders first, help employers utilize modern technology to verify all workers are here legally and allow highly-skilled workers to contribute to the growth and prosperity of our country."
"The folks who live, own businesses and raise their families in this District have made it clear that a mega-bill would be the wrong approach," Gerlach said in the statement. "Further, they do not want Congress to throw up its hands and grant unrestricted amnesty. So I support looking at each issue and coming up with effective answers. We need immigration enforcement that encourages everyone to play by the same rules and keeps all of us safe."
Maureen Keith, spokeswoman for Pat Meehan, said, the congressman "appreciates hearing from the people of the 7th District."
"He believes that America is a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws, and we must respect both by fixing our nation’s broken immigration system," Keith said in an email to Patch. "The first step must be to secure our borders once and for all and create a working legal immigration system that doesn’t encourage lawbreaking. The House and congressional committees are now moving forward in a step-by-step, transparent process to pass bipartisan reforms."
Regarding the visit to Meehan, in a Whitpain Township building close to Meehan’s office, activists met with Meehan’s district representative Eric Cobar, who speaks Spanish and English.
Cobar listened to several activists tell their stories of hardship and hope. One young woman attends Montgomery County Community College. Her mother was kidnapped in her home country and her college tuition is a significant amount of money. She also worries about being deported.
“We interact with the culture here more of the time,” she said, referring to her and other young immigrants. “We don’t know the other culture.”