Hundreds protest immigration reform in downtown Austin, several - | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Hundreds protest immigration reform in downtown Austin, several arrested

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The Senate passes an immigration reform bill that led to hundreds of people protesting in the streets of downtown Austin.

The path to U.S. Citizenship is long and difficult and in some cases, deadly.

A record number of deportations have separated hundreds of thousands of families but Thursday, the Senate passed an immigration reform bill providing a path to citizenship and bolstering border security.

"This is our response to the passing of the legislation," said Fernando Garcia, who is part of a state-wide alliance called "RITA," Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance. "This bill is calling for 700 miles of fencing, 40,000 border patrol agent, and 18 drones. $47 will be spent on it in the next ten years and this is going to be disastrous for border communities."

He's one of hundreds of people who rallied in downtown Austin, protesting a particular amendment to the immigration reform bill. They chanted, held signs and several were even arrested.

"We are all immigrants in this nation. This is the right thing to do for Texas, a fast and fair path to citizenship and no militarization," said Phyllis Hanvey, a supporter. "I'm out here because it's the right thing to do."

The bill's passage is a victory for those who have been working on the issue for years and watched immigration reform fail six years ago.

It also addresses employer hiring and an entry-exit system so the government knows if foreign nationals leave the country when their visa expires.

"Dreamers," young undocumented immigrants, who came to the U.S. as children, would be able to earn green cards in five years.

"We agree with immigration reform. We are for citizenship. We are for legalization, but we cannot accept this trade off. What happened today is Democrats and Republicans, they voted to militarize our border communities and that is extremely unacceptable," said Garcia.

They believe the militarization of the border is to blame for Texas leading the nation in immigrant deaths in 2012, with almost 60% happening in border towns.

U.S. Senator John Cornyn's office released this statement:

"...This debate is not over - we've only reached halftime. My hope is that the House of Representatives will rescue this bill by strengthening its security provisions. This will allow us to assemble a conference committee where we can deliver the guarantees and the results Texans deserve, not the hollow promises they've been getting. This will be a fundamental requirement for any bill to have a chance of passing both chambers of Congress."

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz's office released the following statement:

"I strongly support commonsense immigration reform that secures the border before legalization, fixes our legal immigration system, and upholds the rule of law. This bill isn't it."

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