Vigil Calls For Reform

Court Square Crowd Says Immigration Law Vital

Posted: May 20, 2013

Dionel Castaneda (center) sings the Christian hymn, “How Great Thou Art,” with others at a vigil for immigration reform Sunday at Court Square. (Photo by Michael Reilly / DN-R)
HARRISONBURG — When Francisco Machado fled Honduras in 2008 to seek political asylum in the United States, he left because violence in his home country had escalated to where he no longer felt safe.

“I don’t want to leave my home country, but I need to leave it,” Machado, 56, said Sunday evening, echoing hundreds of thousands of other immigrants, including several others who turned out to Court Square on Sunday for a vigil for comprehensive immigration reform.

Of the over 100 people from 16 Harrisonburg and Rockingham County churches who gathered Sunday evening to pray, sing and walk reverently around the courthouse, Machado was delegated to deliver a letter to the office of 6th District Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Roanoke. The 6th District includes Harrisonburg and Rockingham, Shenandoah and Page counties.

As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which will soon hold hearings onimmigration reform, Goodlatte will play a vital role  on the issue.

Speaking Spanish and English, those gathered at Court Square asked God for guidance and wisdom for their leaders, and also protection and unification for families.

Pastors also read a letter from those assembledto Goodlatte, asking for short, medium and long-term immigration reform; a path to citizenship; a chance for family reunification; laws to be executed in a way that does not violate due process; and to be allowed the right to obtain education.

 Many Republicans, including Goodlatte, have rebuffed a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, likening it to amnesty and an insult to those who came to the U.S. legally.

But Machado says many of those who broke the law had little choice. They could either break American law or die from crime, poverty or natural disasters in their homeland, he said.

“God forgives us, maybe the human needs to forgive another man, another woman,” Machado, a seminary student at Eastern Mennonite University said.

 “I think people have very good behavior for 10, 15, 20 or 30 years,” he said. “They pay taxes. They are good neighbors. …  They can forgive that.”

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