Written by Nicole Foulke
Norristown became a platform for immigration reform at noon today, when the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) organized immigrants, union members, and DREAMers gathered at Los Potrillos Taqueria West Elm Street, to rally for reform, and then drove to the congressional offices of Congressmen Patrick Meehan and Jim Gerlach.
According to Julie Blust, the Communications Specialist of the SEIU’s 32BJ unit that organized the event, the activists are rallying for the U.S. House of Representatives to pass comprehensive immigration reform to match the immigration reform legislation that the Senate passed earlier this year, which creates a path to citizenship.
“We want the House to pass a bill that is not watered down. The time to do this is now,” she said.
Alejandro Rojas, who came to the U.S. from Mexico, has two young sons, one born here, and one born in Mexico. He addressed the rally about his older son. “Every day he asks me if he is going to be shipped back to Mexico,” he told the crowd in Spanish, through a translator.
“I want my sons to have the opportunity to go to college and be citizens,” Rojas said.
A woman named Maria, who came from the Mexican city Tlaxcala, immigrated with her two brothers, both of which were deported. “So I ask the reps to put themselves in our shoes just for one day to see if they would be happy with the life that we live, in the shadows,” she said to the crowd in Spanish through a translator.
After the rally the group split, and half went to visit The Trappe office of Congressman Jim Gerlach and the Blue Bell office of Congressman Pat Meehan, where they met with the congressmen’s representatives, delivered post cards, and copies of an immigration report by the American Action Network.
According to the report, strong immigration reform would create 13,033 jobs in Gerlach’s district and 12,416 jobs in Meehan’s district.
While the congressmen’s representatives did not comment during the visits on where their employers stood on immigration, they listened to the rallyers and said they would take their concerns to the congressmen. “They listed to us, and we appreciate that,” said Blust.
While a representative from Gerlach’s office told Patch.com via email that the rally visitors were not from Gerlach’s district, Blust described to Patch.com a visit where the rallyers felt that they were heard.
The Gerlach representative communicated via email this afternoon Gerlach’s statement to Patch explaining where he stands on immigration reform:
"We are working on solutions in the House that would secure our borders first, help employers utilize modern technology to verify all workers are here legally and allow highly-skilled workers to contribute to the growth and prosperity of our country. The folks who live, own businesses and raise their families in this District have made it clear that a mega-bill would be the wrong approach. Further, they do not want Congress to throw up its hands and grant unrestricted amnesty. So I support looking at each issue and coming up with effective answers. We need immigration enforcement that encourages everyone to play by the same rules and keeps all of us safe." (Congressman Gerlach)
Maureen Keith, the Communication Director for Pat Meehan, relayed the Congressman's stance on immigration reform to Patch via email: “Congressman Meehan appreciates hearing from the people of the 7th District on immigration reform. He believes that America is a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws, and we must respect both by fixing our nation’s broken immigration system. The first step must be to secure our borders once and for all and create a working legal immigration system that doesn’t encourage lawbreaking. The House and congressional committees are now moving forward in a step-by-step, transparent process to pass bipartisan reforms to fix our broken immigration system, starting with securing America’s borders.” (Congressman Meehan)
Regarding the visit to Meehan, in a Whitpain Township building close to Meehan’s office, the rallyers met with Meehan’s district representative Eric Cobar, who speaks Spanish and English.
Cobar listened to several of the activists tell their stories of hardship and hope. One young woman attends Montgomery County Community College (MCCC). Her mother was kidnapped in her home country and her MCCC tuition is significant amount of money. She also worries about being deported.
“We interact with the culture here more of the time,” she said, referring to her and other young immigrants. “We don’t know the other culture.”