CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Several dozen young immigrants marched in uptown Charlotte Saturday morning, just days after taking their concerns to North Carolina’s lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
"We're here to ask for discrimination to end," said rally organizer Elver Barrios, in an interview with NBC Charlotte’s news partner, the Charlotte Observer.
About 45 young members of the Latin American Coalition, known as “United 4 the Dream,” traveled to Washington Wednesday and Thursday to meet with lawmakers.
The advocates asked the Congressmen and Senators to stop deportations of parents with American-born children, or children who were brought to the U.S. when they were very young.
“The broken immigration system is tearing families apart through deportation,” said Coalition spokesman Armando Bellmas.
Many young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children won’t be deported for now, because of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Act, or DACA. But their parents can be deported for being in the U.S. illegally.
The young advocates met with Reps. Mel Watt and Richard Hudson, and Senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr, among others.
"I was very impressed by his willingness to listen to what the young people were saying,” said Bellmas about the meeting with Hudson, a Republican who was recently elected. “And he was pretty much on our side with everything but the pathway to citizenship."
Bellmas said Watt, a Democrat and veteran lawmaker, was also receptive.
“Rep. Mel Watt has been a big ally for a long time, and he's very willing to go that extra mile to help us out with real immigration reform,” said Bellmas.
But Bellmas said he was most impressed with the young advocates he accompanied on the trip.
“I was very impressed by their ability to talk to senators and tell the senators exactly what immigration reform should look like,” he said.
And despite the cold, snowy day in D.C., the group made one last stop – for a picture at the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial.
“That memory is still burned in my mind,” said Bellmas. “The social justice baton being passed from one generation to the next generation. Fantastic picture.”
Bellmas said it was the inspiration the young adults needed to continue their work in Charlotte, educating residents about the need for immigration reform to keep families from being separated.
They plan another march next Saturday.