A small group of Organizing for Action volunteers and community members thanked Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake for helping pass comprehensive immigration reform but added there's still a lot of work to do.
"This is up to us," said Ann Barry, a volunteer with the nonprofit Organizing for Action, about pushing for comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, where the Senate's bill faces an uphill battle.
Barry said she is the granddaughter of Irish immigrants who grew up on Chicago's South Side. She remembers hearing stories of how unwelcome the Irish were when they first got to the United States.
The group gathered outside the Tucson office of Flake, but the senator was not present.
The Senate passed an immigration reform bill that provides a path to legal status for 11 million estimated to be living in the country illegally, but not before billions of dollars are deployed to the border to hire nearly 20,000 Border Patrol agents and high-tech surveillance equipment. It will also require the use of E-verify and expand guest-worker programs for lower and higher-skilled immigrants.
"We are one step closer (to) passing comprehensive immigration reform that's worth our values," said Maya Castillo, president of the Service Employees International Union in Arizona. "It's not entirely perfect, but it offers an improvement over the current system."
She called the "border surge" a "tremendous waste," but said the good outweighs the bad.
Providing legal status to those living in the shadows would add 39,000 jobs and create $540 million in tax revenue in Arizona, she said, citing the Center for American Progress.
Republican leaders in Congress have said they won't vote on the Senate's measure. Instead they will approach immigration reform one bill at a time.
Contact reporter Perla Trevizo at email@example.com or at 573-4213. On Twitter: @Perla_Trevizo