Residents rally for immigration reform

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A debate that's heating up across the nation is igniting action in Michiana.

Several residents and South Bend leaders gathered on the steps of the St. Joseph County Courthouse Friday night, rallying for change.

They're hopeful their cries for change will send a loud message to Washington, D.C.

"There is no question that for anyone who cares about the fate of our city, the opportunity before us that is hitting the floors of Congress right now to fix our broken immigration system is one of those issues that demands attention and activity from all of us," said South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

Senators have been debating an immigration reform bill all week, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented and aspiring immigrants.

An overhaul of the country's visa system is among the proposed changes.

"[With] that visa system, people will want to come to this country," said Tony Flora with the North Central Indiana AFL-CIO Council. "Those visas are available in the numbers that correspond to what our economy needs."

While the potential for change has many excited, some local activists admit the bill isn't perfect. Jesusa Rivera says she fears it focuses too much on DREAMers and not enough on families, who are often torn apart by immigration.

"There could be probably more restructuring around the families, the sibling part of it," Rivera said. "We have businesses that are immigrant-owned and run by immigrants and their extended family and that doesn't include those members. So, that needs to be amended."

Despite some of the issues with the legislation, Rivera says it's probably the best bill the nation can get at this time.

So, she and the rest of the residents at the rally urged Senators Joe Donnelly and Dan Coats, as well as Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, to support the bill.

The South Bend Common Council got behind the issue earlier this year by voting unanimously in support of a resolution asking the legislators to engage in an open dialogue with residents on the topic of immigration.

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