Rosa Maria Soto, a mother of five, is one of the 11 million undocumented immigrants who would benefit from immigration reform.
She made the decision to come to the United States in 1999 shortly after a small store she owned in Mexico was robbed at gunpoint while she was working. She spent the next decade living in Arizona and hiding her immigration status because she feared she would get deported.
Soto said it was the passage of Arizona’s tough immigration law in 2010 that encouraged her to lose that fear and reveal she is undocumented. She began joining various organizations in fighting for immigrant rights. Now, she leads an organization called Parents and Youth in Action that advocates for immigration reform and immigrant rights.
“I can’t stay with my eyes closed knowing that there are many families that are suffering,” she told VOXXI about why she became involved. “I think it’s very unjust to see how children, instead of simply having to worry about going to school and playing, are worried about their parents being deported.”
Thousands to rally for immigration reform at the nation’s capital
On Wednesday, she will join thousands of people at a rally in Washington, D.C., to advocate for an immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants like her.
The rally, dubbed Rally for Citizenship, will begin at 3:30 p.m. on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol building. It’s expected to draw undocumented immigrants, faith leaders and community advocates from across the country. Several celebrities, including singer Olga Tanon, will also be present.
Soto said she and several other parents of Dreamers from Arizona will be there to tell their stories, hoping to encourage members of Congress to vote in favor of immigration reform this year.
“We know that we have to show our faces so that politicians know that there are a lot of people who want to see an immigration reform passed,” she told VOXXI.
Also joining her will be Alejandra Sanchez, who is a mother of five and up until recently was also afraid to reveal she is undocumented. Sanchez said it was seeing her daughter, a Dreamer, get arrested during a civil disobedience action last year that motivated her to come out as undocumented and advocate for immigration reform. The group of Dreamers were protesting Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio‘s tough immigration policies.
“That’s what opened my eyes and encouraged me to get involved,” she told VOXXI about the arrest of her daughter, Jaqueline. Sanchez is currently an active member of the Arizona Dream Guardians, which was formed last year by several parents of Dreamers to push for immigration reform.
Rally participants will ask Congress to deliver on immigration reform
Wednesday’s rally comes on the anniversary of the largest nationwide day of protest that occurred on April 10, 2006. That day, hundreds of thousands of people participated in marches and rallies throughout the country to advocate for immigration reform and protest legislation that would’ve raised penalties for undocumented immigrants.
This year’s rally is being put together by nearly 50 local and national organizations, including CASA de Maryland, United Farm Workers of America, Interfaith Immigration Coalition, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and National Education Association.
Mate Vladar, a communications specialist at CASA de Maryland, said the rally is intended “to remind members of Congress that we are still here, waiting for the promises that were made to us about immigration reform.”
He added that it also intends “to show that there are many people who are our neighbors, our co-workers who are suffering” because of the nation’s broken immigration system.
Diana Tellefson Torres, vice president of the UFW, told VOXXI her organization will take about 100 farm workers, along with students and family members of undocumented immigrants, to participate in the rally. They plan to arrive at the nation’s capital on Sunday and participate in congressional visits in the two days leading up to the rally.
“We’re going to ensure that we visit as many congressional offices as possible so that Congress members and their staff can see that these are real people,” she told VOXXI. “They are people who have come here for a better life. They have families and are like every single one of us.”
Originally published on VOXXI as Unprecedented rally for immigration reform planned for Wednesday