Chants of “Yes we can / End the raids” and “Obama escucha / Estamos en la lucha” rang out along Anapamu Street in front of the Courthouse on Monday at noon as activists gathered in support of immigration reform. Following the 20-minute rally, community leaders held a press conference to announce the launch of the Santa Barbara component of the National Campaign to Reform Immigration for America.

“We want to build a base and get as many people as possible to support immigration reform,” said Belen Seara, executive director of PUEBLO, a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit economic and environmental justice organization which has been involved in immigrant rights since 2006. PUEBLO is one of the 198 national, regional and local organizations that are part of the national coalition supporting the campaign.

The Campaign to Reform Immigration for America is a national effort to change what activists term a “broken” immigration system through comprehensive immigration reform legislation. Advocates of the reform seek legislation that will bring undocumented workers into the system and create a more accessible pathway to citizenship. They say this will improve the economy, keep families together and increase national security.

According to Seara, undocumented workers have no legal right to organize and demand higher wages, which leads to lower wages for all American workers. She said that targeting illegal immigrants and smugglers at the border diverts resources from genuine national threats.

Instead of insisting on specific legislation, the supporters of the campaign have written a set of principles they would like to be included in the any legislation. “We are open to dialogue,” said Seara. “We understand that immigration reform is not an easy issue and we are willing to make compromises.”

Speaking before a backdrop of the American Flag, representatives of several local organizations, including CLUE (Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice Santa Barbara Chapter), American Indian Movement and UC Santa Barbara’s IDEAS as well as local elected officials City Council members Grant House and Das Williams, and 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal voiced their support for comprehensive, national immigration reform legislation.

The campaign was launched in more than 35 cities across the country June 1, 2009. It is sponsoring a national three-day summit on immigration reform in Washington D.C. scheduled for June 3-5.


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