SAN DIEGO (CNS) - Migrant rights activists and city of San Diego political leaders rallied Tuesday in favor of introducing comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
The demonstration, involving about 50 people at the County Administration Center, came one day after President Barack Obama called for overhauling the nation's immigration system in his inauguration speech.
Christian Ramirez, of a group called Alliance San Diego, said the legislation should include a pathway to citizenship, accountability for border enforcement agencies and labor protections for migrant workers and their families.
All people in the U.S. should be able to live with dignity and respect regardless of their immigration status, he said. He was flanked by banners that read: "No human being is illegal" and "Control the Border Patrol."
"Yesterday, President Obama spoke about the need for immigration reform and today we know that as immigrants in this country, we cannot do it alone," Ramirez said. "It takes a broad coalition of elected officials, labor leaders, faith leaders to come together and to ensure that our country affords all people the rights and the dignity that a democratic society is built upon."
Mayor Bob Filner, who represented San Diego's South Bay communities in the House of Representatives for 20 years, said no single component of immigration reform will get passed by Congress.
"Comprehensive also means there is stuff in there we may not all like, that we figure out how to get a consensus," Filner said. "So comprehensive means looking at enforcement, it means looking at legalization in a much different way, it means giving people the opportunity to work, it means all of
The mayor campaigned for election last year in part on strengthening ties with neighboring Tijuana. On Monday, he called for the region to be given one telephone area code.
"We want to look at the border as the center, and not the cul-de-sac, of our community," Filner said. "We want to look at our border as a binational place where we can all achieve - can become better - whether as Mexicans or Americans."
Councilman David Alvarez said comprehensive immigration reform should be an easy choice for members of Congress.
Councilwoman Marti Emerald did not attend but a representative of her office said she backed "true immigration reform."
Ramirez said his organization and similar groups have been discussing the issue with senators and would soon turn their attention toward members of the House of Representatives, including newly seated San Diego Democratic representatives Scott Peters and Juan Vargas.
He said the activists have been told that they will need support from local leaders if an immigration bill is to pass Congress.