LOS ANGELES – A broad coalition of immigrant rights, labor, and faith groups gathered in Los Angeles on Wednesday and held a 24-hour vigil calling for real immigration reform.
With their core message focusing on the importance of protecting immigrant families, the vigil was held in time to coincide with the Senate’s voting and historic passage of the immigration bill on Thursday morning.
The vigil was one of the latest efforts of various groups to mobilize a broad base of communities affected by the immigration debate, demonstrating their commitment to family and humane immigration reform. On Wednesday noon, labor and faith leaders alike came together in front of the LA Federal Building and spoke on behalf of their organizations, calling on legislators for reform.
Advancing Justice – LA (formerly the Asian Pacific American Legal Center or APALC) was one of the lead organizations at the vigil.
Stewart Kwoh, Advancing Justice – LA’s president and executive director, spoke on Wednesday and reminded those in attendance about the six core principles of their immigration rights advocacy: 1.) direct, affordable, inclusive path to citizenship; 2.) strengthen family unity as cornerstone of immigration system; 3.) guarantee immigration equality for LGBTQ families; 4.) end unjust detentions and deportations; 5.) protection of workers’ rights and freedom from retaliation; and 6.) end human rights violations at the borders.
“We are here united and strong, we will keep our voices raised. We will continue to mobilize our community until justice is done,” Kwoh said.
Aside from Advancing Justice – LA, leadership from other faith and labor groups stepped forward at the Vigil’s opening program. Representatives from faith groups like CLUE-LA, National Latino Evangelical Coalition, Faithful Central Church, and Churches in Action said their prayers in their specific denomination and said a short message to the gathered community.
One particular speaker, Fil-Am Seth Ronquillo of IDEAS-UCLA, sent a particularly powerful message.
“I’m undocumented and I’m unafraid,” Ronquillo said. He lamented the damage caused to his family by a flawed immigration system, with his father deported back to the Philippines.
Ronquillo raised the issue of border security as something that only separates families from each other. Although much focus has been given by legislators to the southern border, he reminded everyone that he himself came from the western border, that there are also a lot of people coming in from the northern and eastern border. Militarization on the southern border is definitely not the solution, Ronquillo said.
“And lastly, if you’re undocumented, we call on you to join us today to empower yourself,” he called out to his fellow immigrants.
“If you’re undocumented, don’t be afraid, don’t be ashamed. Kung wala kang papeles, huwag kang matakot, huwag mong ikahiya kung sino ka.”
(LA Weekend June 29 – July 2, 2013 Sec A pg.6)