On the morning of June 30, a group of Latinx leaders held a press conference in front of San Francisco’s Federal Building announcing a 40-mile, 3-day walk from Petaluma to San Francisco to promote the passing of the Registry Bill (HR 1511) — legislation that would expand legal permanent residency to immigrants.
Organized by Renee Saucedo, a member of Almas Libres/Raizes Collective, the walk will take place August 5-7.
The press conference was opened by Gabriella Hernandez, a member of the Almas Libres/Raizes Collective. Hernandez shared the demands of the different organizations in attendance, all of which fall under the umbrella of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA). CHIRLA works with organizations across the country to ensure that immigrants thrive in the United States.
Hernandez began with the demand for Congress to pass the Registry Bill or HR-1511, an update to the existing Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Passed in March 1929, the INA allowed immigrants who had been living in the United States, since June 1921, to apply for permanent residency.
The cut-off date has been updated multiple times since its creation to allow for more immigrants to apply for permanent residency. The last update was in 1986 through the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). Representative Norma Torres from California played an instrumental role in the introduction of HR-1511 in March 2023.
HR-1511 would amend INA to allow those who have resided in the United States for at least seven years to apply for permanent residency. This amendment would mean that more than 8 million immigrants would be eligible to adjust their immigration status.
Speaking in support of HR-1511, Misraim Mendoza, an organizer who attended the press conference and a member of San Jose, Amigos de Guadalupe shared, “We don’t need to create the wheel, it has already been made. We just need to turn it in our favor. The registry bill already exists, we just need to pass it.”
CHIRLA makes clear the desire for permanent residence for immigrants, not temporary solutions like DACA or TPS, as well as the need to create common sense solutions that allow immigrants to see family, and ensure they are not exploited at work or live in fear of deportation.
Isabel Lopez, founder and director of Colectivo Raizes en Condado de Sonoma, explained the Registry Bill’s importance. Having crossed the border at the age of seven years old with her mother and six other sisters with the help of a coyote, she was chased by helicopters and detained by police. She shared that it’s unjust that kids are separated from their families and jailed when their parents are only trying to give kids better opportunities.
“We don’t want militarized borders, we don’t want guest worker programs, because the pay and conditions are unjust,” Lopez said.
Having received amnesty from the last update of the registry bill in 1986, Lopez was able to attend college. Lopez’s personal experience with the benefits the registry bill can provide to immigrants pushes her to advocate for the passing of HR-1511.
“I am going to be a part of this walk from Petaluma to San Francisco,” Lopez said. “We invite all allies and those who have struggled because of their status, even if you can’t walk all 3 days, we invite you to join for 1 or 2 days or to donate food or money.”
Hernandez also denounced the anti-immigrant laws of Florida and Texas. Florida law SB-1118, as of July 1, requires all employers to electronically verify the right to work of their employees. This law also gives police the right to enter workplaces to search for undocumented laborers and doesn’t allow organizations to give licenses or IDs to undocumented immigrants, resulting in an increasing amount of immigrants being sent out of state.
Hernandez also denounced a bill proposed by Representative Matt Schaefer, currently stuck in Texas courts, that would give more power to local police to detain immigrants crossing the border.
Aurora Gonzales, a speaker at the rally who is a part of the organization Porvenir said, “We stand in solidarity with our brothers in Florida and Texas, we won’t let these bills pass.”
Gonzales also spoke of her support of the Registry Bill. “This Registry Bill would benefit DACA and TPS recipients, all of those who work in hotels, people who work in fields, those who have spent years in this country not being able to visit their families in countries they left behind. Migratory reform is needed.”
Hernandez demanded that the human rights of migrants be respected when requesting asylum at the border. Hernandez highlighted that Title 8 currently governs conduct at U.S. borders, punishing immigrants trying to cross and people seeking asylum. Immigrants attempting to cross often have to spend months in prison. Immigrants who apply for asylum are required to have been denied asylum in another country, making the process more time-consuming for those seeking safety. Hernandez spoke of the increasing militarization at the border, which allows for more deportations and imprisonments to take place.
Members of CHIRLA demanded respect and dignity for undocumented workers in the United States, many of whom are often exploited and abused.
After their demands were outlined, the press conference shifted to testimonials. People in attendance spoke about their experiences in the United States as immigrants and their hope for change. Single mothers, college students, community leaders, and more, shared their hopes for Congress to pass the Registry Bill.
As the press conference closed, Mario Esteban, an organizer, stepped up to the microphone to sing a song, El Piojito by Gabino Palomares. The feeling of solidarity and hope in the air was tangible.
To access more information about the walk from Petaluma to San Francisco in August, you may visit CHIRLA and Almas Libres/Raizes Collective’s Facebook pages.