Immigrants march in support of reform legislation

EVERETT — Demonstrators chanting slogans in Spanish marched by Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen’s downtown office Friday morning as part of a nationally organized campaign supporting an immigration bill that’s been submitted to Congress.

About 250 people met at Clark Park in Everett, then started walking to the Snohomish County Courthouse, near Larsen’s office. Immigrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Kenya and Laos were among the crowd.

Marina Margarito of Lake Stevens came from Mexico 10 years ago.

She said she now feels more attached to the United States than to her native land.

“We passed through difficult times, and we stayed here,” she said in Spanish. “After 9/11 we remained here to defend (this) country.”

A new attempt at immigration reform in the U.S. House of Representatives that Margarito and other marchers support is expected to stir up debate.

U.S. Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 last month.

This bill aims to spend money to strengthen border security with better resources and communication for law enforcement.

But it also would offer undocumented workers a way to legal status, allowing them to become permanent residents after undergoing a criminal background check and paying a fine for being here illegally and. Eventually, they could become citizens.

That part of the bill could upset people who don’t want to reward immigrants who broke the law to enter, stay and work in the U.S.

Douglas Kerley of Lynnwood was one of two men who held a sign reading “No Amnesty!” at the corner of Rockefeller Avenue and Wall Street as the larger crowd marched past on the other side of the street.

Immigrants who are in the country illegally should return to their countries and apply to come here through legal channels, he said.

“At our core, we are a nation of laws,” Kerley said. “If you do not respect these laws, you are not respecting our nation.”

Friday’s march was organized by One America, a Seattle nonprofit formerly called Hate Free Zone that advocates for justice “for all people — especially immigrants,” according to its Web site. The rally was part of a week of activities with stops at other congressional offices in Washington state.

It was coordinated with nationwide rallies led by Reform Immigration for America of Washington, D.C., a campaign supported by the nonprofit Tides Advocacy Fund of San Francisco, a lobbying group that supports liberal causes.

Larsen, the Democrat who represents Washington’s 2nd Congressional District, was reviewing the House bill last week, said his chief of staff, Kimberly Johnston.

While Larsen has supported some aspects of the new legislation in previous bills, he has concerns with other parts, she said.

Specifically, the path to citizenship may be too lenient and the visa provisions for seasonal and highly skilled workers may be too restrictive, Johnston said. Larsen also wants a guest-worker program, which the proposed legislation lacks.

Snohomish County Councilman John Koster, an Arlington Republican who is challenging Larsen for his congressional seat, could not be reached for comment.

Alejandro Dominguez: 425-673-6632, adominguez@nuestronoroeste.com.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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