The Madison Student Coalition, a union of local high school and college students and immigrant rights advocates, rallied Tuesday as part of a national week of action to encourage federal immigration reform.
The march began at Memorial Library and finished on the Capitol's steps, where activists held a press conference to voice their support for two bills: the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, introduced in 2001, and the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America's Security and Prosperity Act, introduced in December. Both bills would provide a path to higher education and citizenship for immigrant youth brought to the United States at a young age.
""We are here today because we know it is time for a change in our nation's immigration system, and we know we as a community can contribute in making that change,"" UW-Madison sophomore Evelin Rodriguez said.
The press conference featured community members and area middle school, high school and college students. After the press conference, participants lit candles and retraced their footsteps down State Street. The rally concluded at Humanities, where advocates gathered for music and food.
Mario Garcia, finishing his last semester at UW-Madison, said comprehensive immigration reform needs to occur this year because it reflects the values of the United States.
""This country is a country of immigrants, and the Latino immigrants and immigrants from other countries are just another wave of immigrants,"" he said. ""It is immoral to be deporting people and splitting families apart. … This issue is about human rights.""
UW-Madison sophomore Noah Weatherton said he attended the event on behalf of his partner, who is an immigrant from Mexico, and he supports equal rights for all immigrants.
""I'm just hoping that other students will be able to see the number of people we have here and can see that when people organize in masses, things really can change from the ground up,"" he said.
Under the DREAM Act, undocumented youth must have entered the country before the age of 16 to be eligible.