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Hundreds march downtown in support of immigration reform

March 30, 2013|By Cindy Chang
  • Several hundred people marched in downtown Los Angeles in support of comprehensive immigration reform.
Several hundred people marched in downtown Los Angeles in support of comprehensive… (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)

Rodolfo Bravo, a native of Baja, Mexico, crossed the border illegally when he was 24.

He found work at a Los Angeles-area tire shop. He had two children, Stephany and Rodolfo. Over two decades passed.

Stephany is now 21 and a student at UC Santa Barbara.

Rodolfo Jr. is 13. Bravo still works at the same tire shop. And he and his wife are still in the United States illegally.

Stephany applied for permanent residency for her parents as soon as she turned 21. But the process, if successful, will take years. She wants a solution much sooner than that.

So the Bravo family -- two U.S.-born children and two undocumented parents -- came to downtown Los Angeles from their home in Compton on Saturday morning to join in an immigrant rights march.

Several hundred people marched down Broadway from Olympic Boulevard toward First Street waving American, Mexican and Guatemalan flags. They chanted slogans in Spanish and English urging President Obama and Congress to pass immigration reform and give the country’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

On the day before Easter, some carried wooden crosses with phrases like “No more deportations” and “No more broken promises.”

In 2006, similar marches drew hundreds of thousands at a time when Congress was threatening to step up criminal penalties for illegal immigrants. Seven years later, immigrants such as Rodolfo Bravo are closer to gaining legal status than they have ever been. Latino voters were a key constituency in re-electing President Obama, and some Republicans are getting behind immigration reform for the first time.

Juan Jose Gutierrez, a march organizer, told the crowd that Democrats and Republicans must stop bickering and pass major immigration legislation this year. The new Roman Catholic pope, who is from Argentina and has made ministering to the poor a priority, is an inspiration for Latino immigrants, he said.

“This is the era of hope for the oppressed. We believe that 2013 will be the year,” said Gutierrez, president of Vamos Unidos USA and a coordinator of the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition.

Other march organizers included the Consejo de Federaciones Mexicanas, Alianza Hondurena de Los Angeles and Union de Guatemalteco Emigrantes.

Wearing an American flag headband, Rodolfo Bravo Sr. said he lives with constant anxiety because he drives without a license. He hasn’t been back to Mexico since he left a quarter-century ago. He would like to see his aging parents, who still live in Baja.

“This is my second home. I hope Obama does reform,” said Bravo, 49. “I put it all on God, that I can get my papers and go around in the U.S. without fear.”

Roman Sanchez marched down Broadway with others from the Mexican state of Guerrero, holding a banner proclaiming Guerrerans' support for immigration reform.

Sanchez came to the U.S. illegally 26 years ago, eventually getting his papers through the Santa Ana cosmetic company where he still works. He is active in a club for natives of his hometown, Iguala.

Today, many immigrants from Guerrero still struggle with the problems common to many undocumented workers -- how to get a job without a Social Security number and whether to risk driving without a license.

“People think illegal immigrants take from the government, when they just want to work and make some money,” Sanchez said.

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Twitter: @cindychangLA

cindy.chang@latimes.com

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