Immigration advocates stop in Vancouver

Fast for Families urges Herrera Beutler, others to support reform

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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A traveling campaign for federal immigration reform stopped in Vancouver on Tuesday, urging leaders to get behind a broad overhaul of the nation's immigration system.

Advocacy group Fast for Families and its supporters rolled through Clark County to call on U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, to back immigration reform. Supporters also planned to meet with the congresswoman's staff later in the afternoon.

A small group of national and local activists stood outside Vancouver City Hall and highlighted the struggle they said results from deportations, deaths on the country's borders and living "in the shadows" for many illegal immigrants, said D.J. Yoon, a leader with Fast for Families. The organization has called for broad reform and a new path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million residents.

"These are not just numbers," Yoon said. "Beyond the numbers, we have families and children."

Fast for Families plans to visit dozens of other congressional districts as two logo-covered buses make their way to Washington, D.C., by next month. The U.S. Senate passed a broad immigration reform bill last year, but the sweeping proposal has so far stalled in the House. Advocates are calling on House leadership to address the issue this year.

Herrera Beutler has previously said she believes immigration should be tackled in a systematic, piece-by-piece approach, focusing first on smaller but crucial issues such as border security. That stance has been supported by other House Republicans. But the prospects of anything gaining traction this year are unclear.

Herrera Beutler still sees immigration as a key issue that deserves attention in 2014, spokesman Casey Bowman said this week.

"Jaime has long recognized that our immigration system is broken and must be fixed. She has been a steady advocate in Congress to address immigration reform this year in a way that respects families, treats people fairly, benefits our economy, and preserves our borders and the value of American citizenship," Bowman said in an email. "Along with the folks gathering for today's events, residents from across Southwest Washington have been letting

Jaime and her office know that addressing our immigration system is critically important."

Among those speaking at Tuesday's event was Vancouver City Councilor Jack Burkman, who thanked the group for visiting Vancouver and raising the visibility of an important subject, he said.

"You have a very serious message that's critical in this day and age," Burkman said.

Also speaking were Vancouver resident Rosalba Pitkin of the Clark College Diversity Center, the Rev. Jaime Case of Vancouver's St. Luke's Episcopal Church and local advocate Rick Covington.

Yoon, who fasted for immigration reform last fall, said other people who support the issue should fast and pray as part of their own efforts. The Fast for Families organization launched last year.