A coalition of labor, student and immigrant rights groups gathered downtown Thursday to launch the local leg of a national campaign pushing for comprehensive immigration reform.
About 75 people attended the morning event outside the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse to encourage lawmakers to change America's immigration laws this year in a way that emphasizes keeping families together.
"We are working for family reunification and a path to citizenship," said Michael Flores, Southern Nevada director of Reform Immigration for America, which hosted the event.
Flores expressed frustration with politicians who have put the issue on the back burner in favor of such concerns as health care overhaul and the limping economy.
"We have waited too long," he said. "We have turned our heads too many times."
Jose Padilla, a local construction worker, agreed.
"This is the time for elected officials to do what they promised us when they were elected," he said in Spanish.
Padilla said immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship will help exploited workers.
"I am documented, so I can speak up when I feel I'm being abused," he said. "But what happens to those who can't?"
Recent Rancho High School graduate Francisco Morales, 18, spoke in support of change that would allow undocumented students who have been raised primarily in the United States a chance to gain legal status.
"These young people are scholars and athletes," he said. "But when they graduate, they can't go to college because they don't have papers. This is unfair."
Congress has considered comprehensive immigration legislation in previous years, but it has failed.
It's time to try again, said those at Thursday's launch.
"We have been waiting too many years," Padilla said. "Too many people are suffering."
Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at email@example.com or 702-383-0285.