Reported By Joseph Pleasant, Reporter - bio | email
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -
Around 200 people gathered in south Nashville to demand immigration reform that will allow people in the country illegally to remain on American soil on Thursday.
Chanting "No papers, No fear!" the UndocuBus group rallied supporters at the Super Mecado La Reyna on Nolensville Pike.
Many of the people in the crowd were undocumented immigrants who are facing deportment.
Alejandro Guizar, 19, from Knoxville joined the touring protest in Memphis on Wednesday.
Guizar is currently facing deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials.
"I think now is the time to act because we need to take the momentum from deferred action, which is a small victory," he said. "What we need is people to organize and people need to not be afraid to be who they are."
Deferred action refers to a program through the Department of Homeland Security that will allow young people in the country illegally to avoid deportation.
To be approved the illegal immigrants must meet a number of requirements. Many of them mirror the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
The DREAM Act has not gained Congressional approval.
Advocates said more than one and a half million people could end up being covered by deferred action.
Thousands of people have lined up in cities across the nation to fill out the necessary paperwork, hoping to earn the right to work in the United States legally without being deported.
Supporters of the UndocuBus group said the deferred action program does not do enough to reform an immigration system that deports hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants each year.
"Deferred action is for youth. We think everybody needs deferred action and relief from deportation," Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition Communications Coordinator Eben Cathey said. "The people who are [at this rally] are the fabric of our community."
He continued, "We have people who have been living here for 20 years."
The UndocuBus tour has made stops in several states with tough laws against illegal aliens, including Arizona and Georgia.
Yovany Diaz is an undocumented immigrant from the Atlanta area.
The 21-year-old plans to apply to the deferred action program, but said that will not help his family members remain in the country.
"The decision I made is pretty much because of my mother," he said. "She is an undocumented older person and I want to empower the undocumented community."
Riders on the bus face the threat of deportation as they travel between the states.
"It is actually scarier if you are in [deportation] proceedings," Diaz said. "It's been a little shaky but being a strong community is coming together and giving each other strength that's what we want to do."
The bus' last stop is in Charlotte on September 3 just ahead of Democratic National Convention.
They say they want to expand on the policies that have already been passed by the Obama Administration to help the illegal immigrants who are already in the U.S.
An immigration and customs enforcement agent told Nashville's News 2 via a phone conversation that they did not plan on doing anything about the protest.
He said they focus on illegal immigrants who've committed high profile crimes, threats to national security and illegal immigrants who've been deported before or who just got to the U.S.