Debate over immigration reform rolls into Bakersfield

Debate over immigration reform rolls into Bakersfield
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — A statewide bus tour, the California "Keeping Families Together," rolled into Yokuts Park with hundreds of people calling for lawmakers to support comprehensive immigration reform.

"I'm living proof of what can happen when an individual is free to take advantage of the opportunities this country has to offer," said astronaut Jose Hernandez, of Stockton.

Hernandez was the flight engineer aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery and spent 14 days in a mission in space. He is the son of immigrants.

A group called the Kern County Coalition for Citizenship is urging lawmakers to enact immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, with many in Kern County.

The coalition called specifically on Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy to support the plan to citizenship.

After rallying at Yokuts Park, the group marched a short distance to McCarthy's office to plead their case. McCarthy was not in, but staffers spoke with representatives from the coalition.

The coalition handed a letter to McCarthy's staff requesting a meeting to discuss immigration reform and whether he supports a pathway to citizenship. No meeting has yet been set.

Eyewitness News contacted McCarthy's office and asked if McCarthy supported the concept of granting citizenship to undocumented immigrants. McCarthy did not answer the question directly but instead released the following statement:

“The U.S. remains the beacon of freedom and democracy to the world, and that is why millions immigrate to our country in pursuit of opportunities to create a better life for themselves and their families and pursue the American Dream. However, our nation's immigration system is broken. While there are no legislative specifics to review at the moment, work is underway to develop real solutions that respect the rule of law and also recognize that we are a nation of immigrants. I welcome input from our community on this important issue as Congress begins to develop reforms.”