Immigration reform at heart of march, rally at Capitol

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Ryan O'Donnell

Posted on March 11, 2013 at 10:46 AM

Updated Saturday, Mar 16 at 7:36 AM

PHOENIX -- Arizona, specifically Phoenix, once again is taking center stage when it come to the contentious issue of immigration reform.

A group called Puente Arizona organized a march that kicked off at 9 a.m. Monday. About 100 participants planned to march from Steele Indian School Park to ICE headquarters to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery's Office.

Aerial video from the Fort McDowell Casino News Chopper showed the group making their way to ICE headquarters at about 9:30 a.m.

Puente Arizona is protesting deportation, family separation and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's workplace raids.

In dozens upon dozens of raids over the past several years, deputies have arrested hundreds of illegal immigrants accused of using fake or stolen identities to get jobs.

Puente Arizona wants the county attorney to drop all charges against the people arrested in those raids and to stop tearing families apart.

"It's destroying the fabric of our community," Carlos Garcia of Puente Arizona said. "Children come home from school and don't know if they're going to see their parents. It's heart-wrenching, what people are going through."

County Attorney Bill Montgomery released the following statement in response to Monday's immigration protests:

"I support people exercising their First Amendment rights to peaceably assemble and petition their government for a redress of grievances and to speak freely, rights which, among others, more than one million Americans have died defending.  Today's demonstrations highlight the consequences of our federal government's failure to address a broken immigration system and to properly secure our borders.

"While I continue to support reasonable and necessary federal immigration reforms, I remain equally committed to enforcing the laws I have sworn to uphold as County Attorney.   My Office will continue to make charging decisions based on an individual's conduct -- not his or her race, ethnicity or residency status.  We do not initiate prosecutions to achieve a particular immigration outcome, nor do we control the federal consequences of state-level convictions.  I reject any call to treat one particular group more or less harshly than any other, or to mix politics with criminal justice."

Immigration reform is also at the heart of a 1 p.m. rally hosted by the Arizona AFL-CIO on the House Lawn at the Capitol. That rally is part of a national union campaign calling on Congress to create and pass "comprehensive immigration reform that protects immigrant and American workers."

National AFL-CIO leaders have been touring the country for the past month. Phoenix is the last stop.

National AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt-Baker and Communication Workers of America (CWA) National President Larry Cohen will be on hand discussing immigration reform at the national level.

In addition, local leaders, DREAMers and naturalized citizens "will be calling on Arizona's congressional leaders to support common-sense immigration reform that includes a practical and inclusive road map to citizenship and reflects core American values such as fairness, equality, and family unity," according to a news alert.

While the events are separate, participants in the Puente Arizona march were expected to take part in the AFL-CIO rally.

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