Hundreds of Catholics rallied outside Rep. Ed Royce’s office in Brea on Tuesday evening to demand a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants who are in the country illegally.
“I pray that not only he, but other members of Congress, will have a change of heart and quickly enact comprehensive immigration reform for our country,” Dominic Luong, auxiliary bishop of Orange, told the crowd.
The windows to Royce’s second-floor offices remained dark as the rally concluded with a prayer for "those who come from other lands" and a chant of "Si se puede."
Ruben Barron, a rally organizer, said 27 leaders from the Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino dioceses met with Royce, a Republican, last Friday, but the two sides remained far apart.
"He's talking border security. We don't disagree with that, but he's only focusing on border security. He's not focusing on the 11 million," Barron said in an interview before the rally.
Catholic parishes across the country are mobilizing during the August congressional recess to advocate for immigration overhaul. Tuesday's rally include churches from throughout Royce's district, from La Habra to Yorba Linda to Diamond Bar.
"I'm here to show support for immigration reform. I really want it to pass," said Ingrid De La Torre, 21, a college student and member of St. John Vianney Parish in Hacienda Heights. "There are so many kids who stay here as orphans while their parents are sent back to Mexico."
Royce is among the House Republicans targeted this summer by activists on both sides of the immigration issue. In June, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill that included a path to citizenship, but House Republicans have signaled their intention to take a piecemeal approach.
Earlier this year, Royce joined other House Republicans in denying funding for President Obama’s deferred action program, which grants work permits and two-year deportation deferrals to young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. The vote was largely symbolic but was an indication of where lawmakers stood on immigration.
Fernando Morales, 37, an immigrant from Mexico, has a green card and plans to become a citizen next year. He was able to sponsor his parents for legal residency, but not his brother, who lives in the U.S. without immigration papers and works "morning to dark" as a gardener.
Morales, who lives in Brea and plans to register to vote as a Democrat, says he will not support Royce if the congressman does not get behind a path to citizenship for immigrants like his brother.
"The law they're trying to pass is not fair," Morales said after the rally.