Thousands are expected to march Sunday in Fresno and Bakersfield to shed light on U.S. immigration laws that organizers say have prevented hard-working undocumented immigrants and their children from gaining citizenship.
Families and farmworkers, as well as community leaders and advocates, will meet at 2 p.m. at St. Anthony Mary Claret Catholic Church for a three-mile march in southeast Fresno.
In Bakersfield, marchers will meet at 10 a.m. at Jastro Park and walk more than two miles.
Organizers say the marches are part of a series of events planned for the next few months in California, Oregon, Washington state, Arizona and Washington, D.C. The goal, they said, is to urge U.S. lawmakers to approve a process that would give an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States a path to citizenship.
"America was built on the principle that if you come here, work hard and contribute to society, you can get citizenship," Maria Machuca, spokeswoman for the marches in the Valley, said Friday. "It's only fair to give these undocumented workers the opportunity to do that."
Marches also are planned for Sunday in Salinas, Santa Rosa and Oxnard.
The UFW is negotiating with several major growers associations, along with Republican and Democratic lawmakers, to lobby Congress to pass the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act, called AgJOBS. If approved, AgJOBS would give career farmworkers living and working in the United States the right to earn legal status, organizers said.
The Sunday marches are sponsored by the UFW, Campesina Radio Network, UFW Foundation and the Central Coast Coalition for Immigration Reform. Music, food and entertainment will follow the march in Fresno.
Sunday's marches also will honor the late Cesar E. Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers of America, who died 20 years ago. His birthday is a holiday celebrated March 31 in California and seven other states, and an event Friday in Fresno in Chavez's honor brought hundreds together for the annual Day of Service and Learning.
That event included a program at Saroyan Theatre, an eight-block march to the Cesar Chavez Adult School for an additional program and a garlanding ceremony around the Cesar Chavez bust there.
Sunday march in Fresno
What: March for immigration reform and to celebrate the legacy of late labor leader Cesar Chavez
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: St. Anthony Mary Claret Catholic Church, 2494 S. Chestnut Ave., near Church Ave., southeast Fresno