Throng demands House vote

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Focus is on immigration reform

A group of roughly 100 protestors gathered in downtown St. Louis on Monday morning demanding that the House of Representatives vote on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The demonstration was part of a national day of action promoting the reform bill passed by Senate earlier this year.

If signed in to law, the bill would enact a full overhaul of American immigration policy, dedicating billions of dollars to increased border security and establishing an amnesty policy among other initiatives.

The 100 block of south 10th street was barricaded at both ends by police vehicles as the rally took place in front of the Eagleton U.S. Courthouse.

Six protestors, each with a sign that read “We demand a vote! Immigration reform now!” pinned to their backs, sat in the street and were arrested and charged with failure to comply after multiple speakers shared their experiences with immigration.

Juan Montaña, the leading speaker at the demonstration, made the crowd’s message clear.

“We want a vote, we want it now,” Montaña said, pressuring Rep. Ann Wagner R-Missouri and Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer R-Missouri to bring the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, or Senate bill S. 744, to a vote in the House.

Speakers at the demonstration focused primarily on the adverse effects the current immigration policy has had on their families and the families of others while urging Congress to help immigrants find a better life in the U.S.

“This is a real thing. There are people whose families have been separated… [and] destroyed by the immigration system,” Montaña said. “These are people that come here to work, to grow and to give back to the community.”

Norma Andrade, a Mexican immigrant, said that she lived in the U.S. for 19 years as an undocumented immigrant. She said she had to run away from her husband rather than turn to the law before she was a legal citizen because police would ask her for documentation when she reported domestic violence issues.

The immigration bill the group rallied for was authored by a group of bi-partisan U.S. Senators and passed Senate by a vote of 68-32 in late June. It has since lain dormant as the other half of Congress has been reluctant to take up the bill, attempting instead to draft its own iteration of immigration reform. However House Representatives have seen little success in establishing a unified piece of legislation.

As it stands, S. 744 would create a new amnesty program for undocumented immigrants living in the States in addition to providing $46.3 billion fund to implement new border security measures including more personnel, upgraded fencing and technology along the border and implementation and expansion of the E-Verify system, an electronic system used by employers to verify the legal residency of their employees.The law would require all employers to utilize the E-Verify system within five years of the bill’s passage.

Luetkemeyer has maintained an opposition to any policy that provides amnesty to undocumented persons currently residing in the States, arguing that amnesty is unfair to those who have gone through the process or are in the process of becoming legal immigrants.

“Blaine believes the House needs to take a step by step approach to immigration… and the Senate bill doesn’t do that,” a spokesperson for Luetkemeyer said. “He believes immigration reform is necessary… [but] he does not and will not support [an amnesty policy].”

Wagner’s office was not available to comment at the time of publication.