Latin American Coalition rallies for Rep. Mark Meadows' support

Jul. 16, 2013 @ 06:35 AM

Chants of “Deportation has got to go” and “We need immigration reform now” echoed off the walls of Caldwell County Health and Human Services building Monday afternoon as protesters from the Latin American Coalition rallied for immigration reform.

Protesters gathered outside the building because it houses the Caldwell office for U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-11th, one of five congressmen from North Carolina toward whom the group is focusing their efforts.

Roughly a dozen protesters, most bused from the coalition’s Charlotte headquarters, held a large banner, signs and posters of Meadows’ face that read, “Rep. Meadows, N.C. Ag needs immigrants to grow.”

The rally was part of the Latin American Coalition’s weeklong, statewide Road to Immigration Reform Tour, in which the group will travel across the state staging rallies and informational sessions before going to Washington, D.C., where they hope to meet with the lawmakers in person.

Meadows released a statement after the rally, saying that members of his staff had a chance to speak with the protesters and that he was looking forward to speaking with their representatives Friday in Washington.

“I have also been actively reviewing numerous pieces of immigration legislation that have come out of the House committees to see which ones would best serve the people of Western North Carolina,” Meadows said.

Elver Barrios, community organizer for the Latin American Coalition, said the group’s “ultimate goal is to create awareness about why we need immigration reform.”

Barrios said the group is focusing on Meadows because of the large number of growers, farmers and laborers in his district.

“He needs to realize now more than ever that we need immigration reform to happen this year,” said Barrios.

The group has previously spoken to officials in Meadows’ office, who said they needed more stories from people in the community who have been affected by the broken immigration system, something the Road to Immigration Reform Tour hopes to supply.

Among the protesters was Bacilio Castro of Morganton, who came to the area from Guatemala in 2001, moving in with family already living there. He works at the Western N.C. Workers’ Center in Morganton and learned about the rally through connections there. Castro said the protesters are there to ask Meadows to help achieve immigration reform so immigrants can come out of the shadows, because their demographic makes up such a large portion of the U.S. economy.

“It is time now to give reformed immigration to all the working people,” Castro said.

Organizers held an information session in Morganton Sunday night attended by about 75 people.

The “Reform Riders” will stop in Asheboro, Rockingham and Leland, calling on North Carolina Reps. Renee Ellmers, R-2nd; Richard Hudson, R-8th; and Mike McIntyre, R-7th, to develop and support immigration legislation and a path to citizenship.