-Coinciding with immigration reform rallies across the country, a modest but lively group of demonstrators gathered in the shadow of U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings’ field office in downtown Yakima on Saturday.
Chanting “Si, se puede” and “Hastings, escucha, seguimos en la lucha,” the ranks of the demonstrators swelled to an estimated 200 outside St. Michael’s Episcopal Church under a seasonably blue autumn sky.
Many know that “Si, se puede” is Spanish for “Yes, we can do it.” The other chant, “Escucha, seguimos en la lucha,” rhymes better in Spanish than it translates in English: “Listen, we’ll continue the fight.”
That chant was directed at Hastings, R-Pasco, who so far has avoided taking a position on the U.S. Senate’s immigration reform proposal on a pathway to citizenship, which remains in play despite the nation’s recent focus on health care and the federal government shutdown.
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Local growers think Hastings is opposed to the Senate’s pathway to citizenship, which establishes a 13-year process for the estimated 11 million people currently in the country illegally.
The Senate proposal includes fines of $2,000 plus hundreds more in fees and outstanding taxes, and bars anyone with a felony conviction or more than three misdemeanors. Immigrants would also have to show they’re learning English to be eligible.
Before marching one block over to The Tower, where Hastings and many other federal agencies make their offices, demonstrators listened to a dozen or more speakers exhort them to keep the faith.
Among them was Yakima City Council candidate Carole Folsom-Hill and Mike Gempler, executive director of the Washington Growers League, who said much of the nation’s food supply is dependent on immigrant labor -- legal or otherwise.
An estimated 70 percent of the agriculture labor force lacks documents to legally work in this country.
“Everybody pretends. Everybody winks and nods,” he said, adding, “It is time to fix our immigration system so people can work and live in the United States with dignity and justice.”
The rally was organized by Service Employees International Union Local 1199 and by the Seattle-based group OneAmerica, formerly known as Hate Free Zone.