New coalition pushes for eased immigration rules

Inland supporters of liberalized immigration laws Monday rallied in San Bernardino to take part in a nationwide call for a path to legalization for many of the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants.

The news conference was one of more than 40 across the country to launch Reform Immigration for America, a coalition of civil-rights organizations, labor unions, religious denominations and others.

Shuya Ohno, a spokesman for the coalition, said that with more supporters of immigration reform in Congress since the 2008 elections and broader union and religious backing, a comprehensive immigration bill has a greater chance at passage than failed measures from 2006 and 2007.

“The political landscape has completely changed,” he said.

Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, said the poor economy would make passage of any legalization plan difficult.

“Legalizing millions of people who are here illegally when you have in this area … (nearly 13) percent unemployment is not going to go over well with a large number of people in both political parties,” Calvert said. “I think they’ve got an uphill battle.”

Calvert said he opposes any mass-legalization proposal.

“I can’t support a plan that would grant amnesty to those who are here illegally,” Calvert said. “I think it’s unfair to those who are currently waiting in line to come here legally and all those who have come here legally before.”

Auxiliary Bishop Rutilio Del Riego, of the Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino, said at the San Bernardino rally that one reason so many people come to the United States illegally is because of the difficulty in gaining legal residency. People wait years to legally join family members in the United States, he said.

Deportation of illegal immigrants tears apart families. The coalition’s proposal includes revamping visa regulations and expediting family-unification applications.

Del Riego said his views on immigration were guided by moral and religious principles, not politics. Several participants in the news conference held signs with biblical verses on welcoming strangers.

Celia Chiprez, of Highland, said she was at the news conference on behalf of her husband, Jesús Gómez, who was deported Jan. 30. Chiprez, 44, a U.S. citizen, hopes that immigration-law reform will reunite Gómez with her and their 3-year-old daughter, who frequently cries and asks for her father.