Local News

Immigration reform supporters rally in Durham

Posted August 15, 2010 10:55 p.m. EDT
Updated August 16, 2010 4:23 p.m. EDT

— Immigration reform advocates gathered Sunday to remind candidates running for office in North Carolina that Hispanic voters plan to make their voices heard in November.

More than 1500 people attended the rally at the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at 810 W. Chapel Hill Street in Durham. The majority of those in the crowd want immigration reform aimed at reunifying families and at taking a humane approach to the undocumented population.

“Everywhere we have good and bad people. If we really want to help the good people here, we really need to find good policies,” said Pilar Rocha-Goldberg, El Centro's executive director.

The rally was organized to encourage Latinos across the state to take part in this year's election. Between 2004 and 2008, Latino voting in the United States grew by 30 percent, organizers said.

However, B.J. Lawson, a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, likely won't be a favorite at the polls with Latinos in Sunday's crowd. 

“We cannot tolerate amnesty. It’s cutting the line. It’s not fair. It’s not just,” Lawson said at the rally.

Lawson was booed when he spoke against granting citizenship to people who are in the country illegally.

“It’s not enough to get in front of people who are going to be a friendly crowd and promise what they want to hear,” Lawson said in response to his unwelcoming reception.

Fourth District Congressman David Price disputed Lawson's use of the term "amnesty" and talked about the importance of the undocumented population being able to move toward legal status.

“We need to solve this. This is too important to be just fodder for the talk shows,” Price said. “They’re not radical principles. They’re kind of common sense principles."

Public outcry over immigration reform has been building for months across the country.  At the center of the debate is an Arizona law that allows law enforcement officers to ask anyone they detain about their immigration status if there is a suspicion they're in the country illegally.

The law's supporters say it will help authorities secure the Mexico border, but opponents say it's unconstitutional and encourages racial profiling.