“It is still not a done deal, and anything can happen in the next months,” Torres said. “The opposition is very strong, and they have a lot of money. But the elections last November made a lot of difference. We have more power now, and we are not begging. We are going to be fighting for this legislation. We are ready to mobilize with faxes and e-mails and calls to legislators. And we are going to register as many voters as we can.”
Hispanic churches in the region
said they are urging their pulpits and parishioners to spread support for an immigration bill. They are asking churchgoers to contact senators working on a bipartisan proposal for immigration, especially Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who faces heavy political pressure to water down proposals.
“We are telling everyone in the pews to write the senators, especially those that are having difficulties,” said the Rev. Eugenio Hoyos, an official of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington County, which serves about 300,000 Hispanic parishioners. On Sunday, every church will pass out bulletins in Spanish urging people to attend the march, and worshipers are being urged to tell Schumer and other legislators, ‘You can count on my support, and I hope I can count on you to support immigration reform.’ ”
Schumer was instrumental in securing a recent deal between labor leaders and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the number of visas for low-skilled workers that would be allowed under new legislation. The agreement was seen as removing a major obstacle to approval, but it still faces strong opposition from conservative quarters.
While immigrant activists said they expect a large crowd to converge at the Capitol on Wednesday, opponents said they are planning a small, low-key event nearby. Brad Botwin, director of Help Save Maryland, which opposes illegal immigration, said members will observe the rally but not compete with it.
“We know there has to be some compromise, but what we don’t want is for 11 million people to appear magically as citizens,” Botwin said. “The idea of a general amnesty is just wrong.”
Pro-immigrant activists say that they are not promoting amnesty, but rather an orderly system in which all illegal immigrants will have to wait in line, pay fines and back taxes, and learn English before applying for legal status.
Rufina Perera, 54, an office cleaner in the District, spent her lunch hour Thursday passing out leaflets at Union Station. For her, the chance to achieve legal status after 22 years in the United States would cap a long personal struggle that included fleeing war, being separated from her children for years, working nights for low wages and not being able to visit her relatives in El Salvador until last year.
“It still hurts,” Perera said as she waited in a crowded eatery to pass out fliers to several Latino workers serving up salads and burritos. “We have been here so long, and we have worked so hard to help our families. We are here to stay, and we need security. This is our time.”