Thousands rally for immigration reform in Bakersfield

Immigration reform activists descended on Bakersfield Wednesday in what officials call one of the biggest rallies of the year. UFW officials say 4,000 people were in attendance.

BAKERSFIELD - Immigration reform activists descended on Bakersfield Wednesday in what officials call one of the biggest rallies of the year. UFW officials say 4,000 people were in attendance, asking the government to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Although Congressman Kevin McCarthy is out of town, activists said Wednesday they sent a message to his office that they want McCarthy to pass the immigration reform bill, a bill that passed the Senate, but right now is stalled in the House.

They came from all across the state.

"We've got people from Coachella, San Jose, the coast," said Dolores Huerta, President of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.

"This is something historic to take place here in Bakersfield," said Arturo Rodriguez, UFW President.

Their message is for Congressman Kevin McCarthy.

"Representative McCarthy is not just a representative of this congressional district, he's also one of the top leaders in the Republican party in the House of Representatives," said Eliseo Medina, Secretary-Treasurer of the SEIU.

That's why they're asking the congressman to support the immigration reform bill that passed the Senate and is currently stalled in the House.

Labor unions and farmworkers caravaned through the streets of Bakersfield with their message, ending up at Yokuts Park for an hour-long rally.

"The issue is very important," said Sal Pardo of the ILWU Local 58 from Los Angeles.

"I think everyone should have the opportunity to live free in this country because I had the opportunity," said Irugardo Mendoza, a union worker and son of immigrants.

"It's time," said Nellie Ruiz, daughter of immigrants and a union supporter. '"We're here to support all the immigrants who are being taken advantage of."

The UFW estimates 4,000 were in attendance and promises thousands more will come back if their calls for immigration action aren't answered.

"We're hoping that Representative McCarthy listens to us because this is not going to stop," said Medina. "This is going to continue until we have immigration reform."

UFW officials estimate they spent more than $18,000 to transport people from around the state to this rally.

Congressman McCarthy was out of town Wednesday, but released a statement: "I think that it is always healthy to have a dialog on the important issues of the day, and I welcome folks coming to visit Bakersfield. While I have met with many groups across the spectrum of the immigration reform debate, in the end I value the input of my constituents in the 23rd Congressional District most. I have long said that our immigration system is broken, but rather than take up the Senate bill, the House will move in a step-by-step approach that first secures the border."

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