WASHINGTON D.C. (WWJ) – A rally and march for immigration reform drew tens of thousands to nation’s capital Wednesday, including hundreds from Michigan.

Rallying among labor and immigration advocacy groups was a group of UAW members, including Vice President Cindy Estrada, who explained why they support a path to citizenship.

“We don’t want to create a permanent second class of workers,” Estrada told WWJ Newsradio 950. “We think that’s not good for the immigrant workers who are here, or for citizens … people who already have citizenship.”

Estrada said many of the nation’s undocumented workers are forced to work long hours in miserable conditions for low pay and no benefits. She said the result is a race to the bottom, in which the wages and benefits for all workers are affected.

Estrada said immigration reforms would also help keep families together. She shared the story of a local Ford plant worker whose husband is facing deportation.

“Her husband came here when he was, I think, about 12 years old — and he just missed the Dream Act,” Estrada said. ” But he;s been here, they have two kids, he’s involved in the community. He’s undocumented and there’s no path to citizenship, even though he’s married to a citizen.

“The sad thing is, they have two small kids — and every day they’re worried their dad’s not going to be there when they get home,” she said.

Raquel Garcia-Anderson, an organizer with Michigan United, left for D.C. from Detroit by bus Tuesday night.

She said creating a path to citizenship is best especially for struggling cities like Detroit.

I can’t get a police [officer] when I call, because of the budget, but we’re throwing away people who pay taxes? It’s like … I don’t know if that makes any sense to me. So, yes — there needs to be a law, it needs to make sense — but it needs to make sense all around,” Garcia-Anderson said.

The rally comes as a bipartisan group of senators appears to be inching ever closer to a deal for overhauling the nation’s immigration system, and having made recent progress on one of the issue’s key sticking points, negotiators say they expect to present a version of the legislation by the end of this week.

The so-called “gang of eight,” which has for months been involved in negotiations for a comprehensive immigration reform bill, is expected to announce committee hearings next week to debate the bill, and senators from both sides of the aisle will be briefing their caucuses Wednesday as to the ins and outs of the plans. (More on this from CBS News).


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