Statewide bus tour demands immigration reform

Mar 4, 2013

Imagine living your life in a legal limbo, with fear of deportation looming and constant uncertainty about your future.

That’s the reality for many immigrants in Washington State. Several dozen of them are boarding a bus that will criss-cross the state this week to tell their stories and demand comprehensive immigration reform. 

The Keeping Washington Families Together bus tour kicks off in Vancouver on Tuesday. It will make stops for rallies in Seattle, Wenatchee and several other cities in eastern Washington.

On board will be immigrants like Xochitl Rojas, who was born in Mexico, but has lived in Seattle with her parents and brothers since she was 3-years old. She says they grew up knowing they had to keep their legal status a secret.

“Because it was dangerous if we talked to the wrong person. Our whole family could face the dangers of getting deported or split apart," Rohas says. "And for most of your childhood, you know it, but it doesn’t really affect you directly.”

That changed after she graduated college and was poised to go to work in her dream job as a nursing assistant, but lost the position because of her legal status.

She’s 24 now, married with a four year old and another baby on the way. Last year, she qualified for a new program called Deferred Action, which gives her a legal work permit for the next two years. She works in a grocery store. But she doesn’t know what will happen after that.

“And that’s the scary thing, that it’s only two years and the laws are always changing. Our lives are basically in the hands of these laws and the decision makers. And that’s why we’re going out there and we’re speaking up and we’re fighting. Because there is something we can do and that’s speak up.” 

She’ll be on the bus with her father, who to this day is undocumented and could be deported anytime. Along with hundreds of others on bus tours nationwide, they’ll rally for comprehensive immigration reform including a path to citizenship.  

They’ll get support this week from Washington’s largest business group. The Association of Washington Business is throwing its weight behind immigration reform.

They’ll join the launch of the new Washington Compact at a news conference in Yakima on Tuesday.