Mission District Mobilizes for Immigration Reform

11:37 am in Front Page, Immigrant Life, Topics by Rigoberto Hernandez

En Español

An earlier version of this article said there will be 18 buses with 1,000 passengers going to Washington D.C. to march for  immigration reform. Those buses will actually be coming to San Francisco on March 24 to march. Only one will go to D.C.. The article also said that the Mission Asset Fund found that 40,000 immigrants were ready to become citizens. It was the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials who concluded that figure. We regret the errors.

In what some are calling the largest march in the Obama presidency,a projected 100,000 people will gather in Washington D.C. this Sunday to demand immigration reform.

About a half-dozen of the marchers will be from the Mission District. Tomorrow they will embark on a seven-day bus ride, stopping in eight cities along the way to hold press conferences and fill the 55 spaces on-board.

The march is part of a week of action organized by several local and national groups, ranging from faith-based organizations to labor unions. Activists said their goal is to get Congress to pass a bill this year that will lead to the legalization of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants nationwide.

Some riders are longtime activists, while others, like Oscar Mangandid, a 20-year-old City College student, are newcomers to the cause. “I just want to be part of the momentum,” said Mangandid, who got involved three months ago.

A U.S. citizen and Mission resident, he said he is going on this trip for his mother, who came here from El Salvador and recently told him the hardships she underwent when she was undocumented.

Another new activist is Jose Palacios, a legal resident originally from El Salvador. Palacios is not going to Washington but is helping organize the San Francisco effort. Saying that there is “too much injustice,” he first became involved because people in his neighborhood were being deported.

Palacios will be among the estimated dozens who plan to have “constant contact,” meaning there will always be someone present in Senators Barbara Boxer’s and Diane Feinstein’s San Francisco offices tomorrow. He will also be part of the estimated thousands of people expected to demonstrate in front of the senators’ offices on March 24, along with those who will have returned from Washington D.C.

Eric Quezada, the executive director of Dolores Street Community Services and an immigrant rights activist since 1990, said the march is just the beginning. “Justice doesn’t come in a one-time march,” he said, adding that the protest will only intensify if Congress doesn’t pass immigration reform.

Quezada and others say they are encouraged by the announcement last week that Obama has met with Senators Charles E. Schumer, D-New York, and Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina. The two senators have been working for six months on an overhaul of the current immigration system.

Activists said they believe that, unlike the 2006 protest when millions took to the streets to demand immigration reform with little results, this effort will be more successful because the movement is better organized and there is a Democratic president and congress.

Lorena Melgarejo, a community organizer for the action, said she cast her first vote in 2008 and expects Obama to fulfill his promise on immigration reform.

Melgarejo, who works for the Mission Asset Fund,a non-profit that helps working families, said that the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials found that 40,000 currently permament resident immigrants in San Francisco are eligible to become citizens.

The asset fund currently has the capacity to help 250 people who are eligible to become citizens and intends on doing so before the November election, Melgarejo said.

This would send a strong message to Democrats, activists said.

Still Quezada questioned why Democratic leaders are “scared” about the tea party protesters when they did not vote for them to begin with, he said.

“[Democrats] are not worried about their base — the millions of votes they got from the Latino community,“ he said.

Check back for updates from the bus.

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