A coalition of groups wants Missouri's congressional delegation, particularly Republicans, to join others supporting immigration reform.
Speaking at Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer's office, 2117 Missouri Blvd., on Friday afternoon, Alison Dreith with the Missouri Progressive Vote Coalition told her fellow coalition members that 29 Republicans already support comprehensive reform - and Luetkemeyer should come on board if he wants their support come re-election time.
"Immigration reform could be the comeback issue for the Republicans after suffering poor approval ratings for how they handled the government shutdown, and budget and debt ceiling debacle," she said. "Rep. Luetkemeyer and other House Republicans have a chance to prove they're serious about reform and that means action on bipartisan legislation with a path to citizenship for all 11 million aspiring Americans."
Mickey Belies, speaking on behalf of the Missouri National Organization for Women, said in the past five years, the U.S. has deported more than two million people, two-thirds of whom had been in the country longer than a decade.
"It is morally unacceptable that millions of immigrant families live in fear of separation," she said. "Families are being torn apart. Between July 2011 and September 2012, over 205,000 parents were deported - leaving their children, who were born in this country, in foster care."
Robin Acree of the group Grass Roots Organizing said she has been to the Mexican border and seen what a life-and-death struggle it is for people who want to try and make a better life for themselves.
"In my hometown of Mexico, Missouri, there is a Mexican businessman who has been in this country 13 years, with a respected business and family - and has been waiting nine years to get this citizenship," she said.
"The system should be changed so there is dignity and respect for those who are trying to make a better life for themselves."
Luetkemeyer spokesman Paul Sloca talked with the group, saying Luetkemeyer does support immigration reform, but also wants to make sure the country's borders are secure.
"If they come in legally, he supports getting them in," Sloca said. "Blaine believes the House should take a step-by-step approach to get each part of immigration reform right.
"He supports the expansion of work verification, deporting criminal illegal immigrants, but also reducing the wait-time and red tape for those entering this country legally."
A large demonstration by reform supporters is planned for next week in St. Louis.