By JOHN KLINE
THE GOSHEN NEWS
ELKHART — It was a small but energetic crowd that converged on Elkhart’s Civic Plaza early Saturday afternoon to rally in support of comprehensive immigration reform in the United States.
Sponsored by the Northern Indiana Coalition for Immigration Reform, the rally featured music, free food, as well as numerous speakers including: Tony Flora, president of the North Central Indiana AFL-CIO; Felipe Merino, a local immigration attorney; and Kyle Hannon, president of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce.
According to the NICIR, the purpose of Saturday’s rally was primarily to educate citizens on the most important aspects of the comprehensive immigration reform bill recently passed by the U.S. Senate, as well as to call on Congresswoman Jackie Walorski, U.S. Representative for Indiana’s 2nd congressional district, to support similar legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives, specifically legislation that calls for a pathway to citizenship for all immigrants.
Lee Gloster, South Bend, was one of numerous attendees of Saturday’s rally that had a personal connection to the call for comprehensive immigration reform in this country.
“My mother was an immigrant. My mother wasn’t born in this country, and when she started school, she didn’t speak a word of English,” Gloster said of why he chose to come out and add his voice to the rally. “I think opinions about immigration reform are beginning to change, but slower than I would like. We still have to push hard on this. But they are beginning to change. I think it was very significant that we had businessmen and Republicans coming out to this event, so I’m cautiously optimistic.”
Charles Mumaw, a resident of Greencroft Goshen, was one of the more than 20 cosponsors to participate in Saturday’s event.
A member of the Just Peace Seminars group out of College Mennonite Church, Mumaw said he has been working with the NICIR to promote comprehensive immigration reform for the past four to five years, and while he is excited about what he’s seen recently out of the Senate regarding the issue, it was the House that was on his and most everyone’s mind during Saturday’s rally.
“Basically what we’re trying to do here is just bring the community awareness, and keep supporting each other in our venture,” Mumaw said while taking a break from passing out pro-immigration reform signs to the gathering crowd. “We think that this is going to come to a vote (in the House) sometime in mid-October, so we need to get Jackie to commit to some kind of immigration reform that includes the parents and the children.”
As for how optimistic he’s feeling about that goal, Mumaw said he’s sure it’s going to be an uphill battle, but he’s in no way ready to give up the fight.
“We know the Senate side has done what we’re hoping for by passing a version of an immigration reform bill with a pathway to citizenship,” Mumaw said. “It’s a long pathway — over eight, nine, maybe 10 years — but it’s a pathway, and what we really need to do now is get a pathway passed through the House. Right now that seems to be a sticking point. But they are willing to deal with the Dreamers, so we’re here to persuade Jackie to include not just the Dreamers, but a pathway to citizenship as well.”
Also out braving the heat to support the cause Saturday afternoon was Osceola’s Jodi Buoscio.
A teacher at Elkhart’s Memorial High School for the past 17 years, Buoscio said she felt called to attend Saturday’s rally after seeing the pain and difficulties so many of her undocumented students have gone through over the years in their attempts to gain legal citizenship.
“I have a lot of Hispanic students in my classes, and I’ve seen firsthand the emotional roller coaster they’re on with trying to become legal here,” Buoscio said. “I’ve had some really great kids, and it just kills me to see that disappointment in their eyes when it doesn’t happen, so I’m just out here to show my support for immigration reform.”
In addition to her personal experience with her students, Buoscio said her own family actually immigrated to the United States from Russia to avoid persecution, so any time immigration is an issue, it always hits close to home for her.
As for whether or not she feels comprehensive immigration reform will likely come out of the House anytime soon, she said it’s still too soon to tell, though she isn’t about to give up hope.
“I think honestly the Gang of Eight in the Senate had a very good plan, and I think if you look at it financially, it would really benefit our nation because it would add so many taxpayers into the tax base,” Buoscio said. “And it just frustrates me to no end that at this point in the House, maybe they’re going to do something, maybe they’re not. Like one of the speakers today said, it’s like we’ve got ADD right now in this country. So I think we really need to sit down, focus, and address our issues here at home and take care of our people — all of our people.”