As a bipartisan group in Washington unveiled a plan for sweeping immigration reform, several groups rallied on the steps of Houston City Hall and called for changes that would put undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship.
"I am undocumented and unafraid. I will continue to fight for my community," said Cesar Espinoza, who came to the United States at the age of four and obtained a college degree as a young adult. "The time is now, not only for people like myself but for people who are working hard every day for a place we call home."
At the same time in Washington, the issue is garnering momentum exactly one week after President Barack Obama called reform a top priority of his second term.
"For the first time ever, there is more political risk opposing immigration reform than supporting it," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York).
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) added, "This is consistent with our country's tradition of being a nation of laws and of immigrants."
The proposed legislation would:
- create a path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants already here.
- secure the border and address visa overstays.
- reform the legal immigration system to keep families together.
- award Green Cards to immigrants who obtain advanced degrees at American universities.
- improve the employment verification system and penalize employers who hire illegal immigrants.
- allow more low skilled workers to enter the country for hard to fill jobs in such areas agriculture.
However, not everyone is praising the plan.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) released a statement saying he has deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship.
"To allow those who came here illegally to be placed on such a path is both inconsistent with rule of law and profoundly unfair to millions of legal immigrants who waited years, if not decades, to come to American legally," Cruz said.