Five undocumented immigrants received a standing ovation on the floor of the Assembly today for their campaign to prod changes in federal immigration law.
The immigrants are walking from San Francisco to Washington D.C. to lobby for passage of the federal Dream Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for many longtime residents who immigrated illegally as children and later graduated from U.S. high schools.
No lawmakers protested recognition of the undocumented immigrants on the floor of the Assembly. Almost all Democrats stood to applaud, but many Republicans stayed in their seats.
"These are young people exemplifying true leadership and commitment to civic engagement," said Assemblyman Ricardo Lara, a Bell Gardens Democrat who chairs the Latino Legislative Caucus, in introducing participants in the nearly 3,000-mile cross country walk.
The five undocumented walkers are Alex Aldana of Southern California, Lucas Da Silva of Orlando, Fla., Jose Gonzalez of San Diego, Nicolas Gonzalez of Chicago and Jonatan Martinez of Georgia. They are joined by a sixth-walker, Raymi Gutierrez, a U.S.-born citizen from an immigrant family.
The walkers are traveling about 16 to 19 miles per day, six days a week. They plan to reach the nation's capital on Nov. 2, shortly before ballots are cast in the U.S. presidential election.
Martinez, 25, said the walkers' goal is to show that undocumented immigrants like themselves are an asset to the U.S. and can be productive, contributing taxpayers if given the opportunity.
Martinez was brought to the U.S. from Mexico City on a visitor's visa when he was 4. He recently graduated from college but federal law bars employers from hiring him because of his immigration status, he said.
"As much as I love America, I'm not able to give back because of the fact that I'm undocumented," Martinez said.
Photo caption: Five undocumented immigrants, who are on a nearly 3,000 mile walk from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., appeared in front of the state Assembly on Monday. They are marching in support of the federal Dream Act. Photo by Hector Amezcua / firstname.lastname@example.org