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On a 40 mile walk to San Francisco, marchers call for immigration reform

Jeremy Hay

Aug 6, 2023

Long walk of hope part of national show of support for legislation that would give millions of undocumented immigrants a path to legal residency

Driven by frustration, sadness and hopes for change, immigrants and their allies set off Saturday to walk from Petaluma to San Francisco as part of a national show of support for legislation that would give millions of undocumented immigrants a path to legal residency.

“I'm here for my mom. She’s been here for almost 25 years and has not been able to get back to see her family. It’s heartbreaking,” said Bryan Fructuoso, a Santa Rosa Junior College student, whose mother immigrated from Mexico.

Fructuoso was among more than 100 people who joined the 12-mile first leg of the march, from Walnut Park to Novato. They were to continue to Mill Valley on Sunday, then to San Francisco on Monday. There, they were to meet immigration reform advocates marching from San Jose for a rally at the Federal Building.

Accompanied by a medical support van, they marched in 90-degree heat through sun-browned hills south of Petaluma, calling for support for HR 1511, a bill now in Congress that would make an estimated 8 million people who lack legal immigration status eligible to apply for permanent residency.

"Today, more than anything, I feel hope. We’re walking in this extreme heat simply so that they will listen to us, so that they will hear us, so that this bill will pass,“ said Anastasia Cruz of Santa Rosa, who immigrated from Mexico.

“It’s important for people to know we’re working people, family people,” said Cruz, who works as a housekeeper. ”We pay taxes, we contribute to our community. I’ve been a volunteer in my community for the last 15 years, only helping my community. We should be able to apply for legal residency.”

We really do need immigration reform. Businesses are having a hard time filling positions and there are people who want to come here to work. That has been the model since before my ancestors arrived in the 19th century. Let people in and give them a path to citizenship. Btw, unless you’re a Native American, you’re here because of immigration regardless of when your family came.

Known as the Registry Bill, HR 1511 would update a 1929 law to make most immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least seven years eligible to apply for permanent residency.

Other marches demanding action in Congress were scheduled for this week in Los Angeles, Vancouver, Miami, Denver, Houston and Washington, among other cities.

The 40-mile North Bay march was organized by the Northern California Coalition for Just Immigration Reform, which is made up of dozens of immigrant rights groups including ALMAS LIBRES, a Sonoma County organization of immigrant and Indigenous women.

Coalition members wanted to “highlight the urgency for the passage of this bill,” said Renee Saucedo, ALMAS LIBRES’ program director.

“They’re exhausted from having to hide in the shadows in fear of being deported when all they’re doing is breaking their backs working and sustaining many industries, such as agriculture and hospitality,” Saucedo said.

The Registry Bill would be the most significant immigration-related legislation since 1986, when people who'd entered the country without authorization before 1982 became eligible for amnesty under the Immigration Reform and Control Act signed by President Ronald Reagan.

“I’m frustrated and sad because I’ve been here for 22 years and have no pathway to citizenship,“ said Sarah Souza, a marcher who said she immigrated from Brazil with her mother.

Souza is a legislative aide to San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin, she said. But as a recipient of DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — while she is protected from deportation and has a work permit, she must reapply for that status every two years. Republican-led states are currently challenging DACA in court.

“I give back to the economy, bring culture,” Souza said. Immigrants “are such a beautiful community and yet we’re often left with promises, used as tokens in elections, and no outcomes.”

North Bay Reps. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, and Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, introduced the Registry Bill last year. Huffman will sign on as a co-sponsor of the bill this year, his office said Friday. Thompson’s office could not immediately confirm his plans regarding the new bill, which was reintroduced this year by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose. California Sen. Alex Padilla introduced the bill in the Senate last week.

With about 6 miles to go before Novato, the marchers stopped for a rest and lunch outside the North Bay Korean Presybterian Church on San Antonio Road, across the Sonoma and Marin county line.

Standing in the sun, Socorro Diaz, a leader of ALMAS LIBRES and the coalition that organized Saturday’s march, had a response to people who suggest that undocumented immigrants should not be eligible for legal residency.

“Who invented these borders,” said Diaz, a Santa Rosa resident who immigrated from Mexico and works as a housekeeper. “Our right to come to this country is a human right. I don’t believe in a world that is divided and we should not be divided because of immigration status.”

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