Cesar Hernandez of Kennewick doesn't have children, but he marched in frigid weather Monday to support a proposed law that would allow immigrant students a chance to attend college or serve in the military because he believes it's a step toward unifying the United States of America.
"We're trying to take from people the hate, the racism," Hernandez said. "We want to live in peace with each other and make it better for all of us in the United States."
Hernandez was one of about two dozen people from One America and the United Farm Workers of America who marched on the sidewalk outside U.S. Rep. Doc Hastings' office in Pasco to urge him to support the DREAM Act, which would allow eligible immigrant students who graduate from American high schools to become conditional legal permanent residents and require them to become citizens by going to college or enlisting in the military.
The group also delivered a letter to Hastings urging him to vote for the bill, which is expected to be considered in the Senate today. If it passes, it then would move to the House of Representatives, where proponents say it likely would need to be passed during the "lame-duck" session of Congress in December -- before Republicans take over the House in January.
Hastings spokesman Charlie Keller said the congressman hasn't taken a position on the bill because he doesn't yet know what it might look like if it comes out of the Senate.
"We don't know the form or the details," Keller said.
Hastings told the Herald when the group held a similar rally in May that he encourages locals to contact him about their positions on federal issues.
"I have been very clear about my position on this issue, having long supported a complete solution that strengthens control over our borders, ends illegal immigration and improves the guest-worker program so that it is enforceable and functional for our local agriculture economy," he said at the time.
Keller said the letter delivered Monday would be given to Hastings for consideration.
Hernandez, who emigrated from Mexico 20 years ago, said he often gets the message from people born in the United States that immigrants aren't wanted here.
"They have no reason to say, 'I hate you,' " he said. "These (immigrants) have the lowest jobs. ... They don't have much to do in their own country. They come here looking for opportunity."
Omar Ortega, 14, of Kennewick, said he has opportunities because he was born in the United States -- but his older brother and sisters born in Mexico before the family emigrated do not.
Ortega thinks that's wrong.
"There's a lot of students who are trying to go to school but they can't because they're immigrants," he said. "I can go to school. ... I want them to have the same opportunities as I do. It's only fair."
w Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org