Public officials, activists and religious leaders packed into World’s Fair Pavilion in Forest Park this afternoon to rally for immigration reform, calling on members of the U.S. House of Representatives to move forward with a plan that cleared the Senate last week.
St. Louis native Vin Ko runs a pick up soccer league in St. Louis that he said brings together everyone from CEO’s to new immigrants.
More than just potential economic benefits, he said the nation needs immigration reform because it’s the right thing to do.
“When we have people who embody our values and our desire to achieve the American Dream, they add to the culture of America, and what makes this country great,” Ko said.
Immigrants like Saint Louis University Professor of Medicine, Bahar Bastani, shared their own stories of how they became Americans.
Bastani said he came to America to flee government oppression in Iran, and that he regularly sees highly skilled workers leave the country because they’re not able to gain permanent residence.
“There are a number of, right now, post doctorate students and researchers who have come from Iran and other countries, who are highly productive,” Bastani said. “They are being forced to go back home or go to another country for two years then reapply to come here. We are losing a lot of high quality physicians and scientists.”
For others like Javier Orozco, who directs the Hispanic Ministry for the St. Louis Archdiocese of St. Louis, it’s a matter of faith.
“With our gospel values, with the practices in our diocese and also with our Catholic social teachings that call us to be good, welcoming people,” Orozco said.
But the U.S. Senate's immigration reform bill faces an uncertain future in the House.
Leadership in the Republican controlled chamber have raised concerns that it doesn’t go far enough to ensure border security and indicated it may not receive a vote.
“The Senate bill gives legal status to 11 million people before it solves all the problems with securing the border, with e-verify, with entry/exit visa system and says, ‘We’ll take care of those later,’” said chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) on CNN’s “State of the Union.”