500 rally for path to citizenship

Church alliance holds Sunday event to focus attention on plight of undocumented residents

Mar 10, 2013   |  Indianapolis Star | Link to Article

Jesus Ramirez watched as his uncle was tied to a tree in Mexico City and burned alive.

His father, determined to find out who did it, became a target. Criminals shot at his father’s business. And they tried to kidnap Ramirez’ mother.

The family fled the violence and came to the United States in 2004, but now Ramirez, 16, says his family faces something almost as terrifying: deportation.

“You look Mexican, Hispanic, Latino, you’re getting stopped and you’re getting deported,” he said Sunday.

“It wasn’t my choice. I had to come here. I came here to better myself, but yet I’m hostage in my own body, because I can’t mobilize. I can’t express who I am.”

Ramirez, a resident of Beech Grove, joined more than 500 immigrants, clergy and community leaders Sunday for a citizenship rally outside of St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in the 500 block of North Rural Street.

The Campaign for Citizenship rally was organized by the Indianapolis Congregation Action Network (IndyCAN), a multi-faith, multi-ethnic alliance of local religious groups.

The goal was to encourage undocumented residents to tell their stories and to urge government leaders to craft legislation that will grant citizenship to the 11 million such immigrants already in the United States.

Ryan Logan, a rally organizer with IndyCAN, said he was pleased with the turnout and hopes attendees will go out into the community and share their stories of hardship.

“We want to stop the deporting of our families,” said Oscar Vasquez to the crowd amid a chorus of cheers. “We need to raise our voice as one community. We want citizenship.”

The rally comes at a crucial time.

A bipartisan group of United States senators are in the middle of crafting a comprehensive immigration bill.

The lawmakers in the “Gang of Eight” have been meeting several times a week to write sweeping legislation that would strengthen the U.S.-Mexico border, improve legal immigration procedures, crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants and provide an eventual pathway to citizenship for those 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The senators said this week they may not meet their self-imposed March deadline and that it may be mid-April before the legislation is crafted.

“I’d rather do it right than do it fast,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “But I think we’re making good progress.”

Progress can’t come soon enough for Brenda Miralrio, 16, who lives on Indianapolis’ Eastside.

She is a citizen but also the oldest child of two illegal immigrants.

“I had to feel the pressure,” she said, adding she worries every day that her parents will be deported and the family will be torn apart.

“I believe God sees us as one.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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