Western Montanans rally for immigration reform
This weekend immigration reform rallies were held in more than 100 cities across the United States and in Missoula dozens of people gathered on the Missoula County Courthouse lawn Sunday afternoon to voice their support for reform.
Speakers told the crowd their own stories about trying to become a U.S. citizen and the difficulties that they faced.
Helena resident and speaker Wilmot Collins, originally from Africa, says America is made-up of immigrants and that’s why he says it’s so important immigration laws are changed.
“We can't have a half policy - we need full, comprehensive immigration reform,” he tells us. “There's no better time to change immigration reforms than now so we gathered here today to express that and to tell our fellow citizens that if we can’t have immigration reform now then we can't have it at all, so the time is now.”
Immigration reform is an issue Republicans and Democrats have gone back and forth on for years with no results.
NBC Montana wanted to check how many immigrants currently live in the United States; however we could not confirm the number because the government shutdown has forced the U.S. Census Bureau website to shut down.
Other sources indicate roughly 38 to 40 million immigrants currently reside in the U.S.
For Collins it’s not about bringing a new influx of people into the United States, but allowing the ones that are here to stay.
“It’s about having the people within this country legalize so that these people within the country can contribute to the community's,” Collins says. “These people can contribute to the civic society and civic organizations so if they're here make them legal and let them be a part of us.”
Collins says his goal is to have people reach out to their local legislators, senators and representatives and urge them to reform immigration laws.
“We talk about family values every day and that's part of the American dream are family values and we are intentionally creating this separation with our immigration laws and that's why we need a reform,” he says.
The rally was sponsored by a number of groups including the Montana Organization Project and Indian People’s Action.