Latino Cultural rally

Maria Serrano, of Atlantic City, signs the immigration reform during a community meeting by Latino Cultural Association at O'Donnell Memorial Park in Atlantic City.

Edward Lea

A local Latino organization worked Wednesday to unite the entire community around the cause of immigration reform.

The Latino Cultural Association held a rally at the O’Donnell Memorial Park in Atlantic City that brought more than 100 people to encourage support for legalization of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

Association President Hector Rivera said the goal was to unite people throughout the community of all different ethnicities.

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“This is a nation of immigrants,” he said. “It’s very important people don’t forget that.”

The Latino community is often the face of illegal immigration, Rivera said, but the issue affects people who emigrate to America from countries around the world. Immigration will also have positive effects for the country, he said.

“We are good, hard-working people. We only need an opportunity to work in this country,” he said. “This nation needs to integrate different sections of society and move in the same direction to save the economy and future of this country.”

Galloway resident Naseem Patel works with families of immigrant children at Sovereign Avenue School for the Atlantic City School District.

“The immigrants come with many faces,” she said. “It is a diverse community (in Atlantic City) that enriches us in many ways.”

Dozens of members of Local 54 UNITE-HERE attended the rally to show support. Union President Bob McDevitt said many of the union’s members are immigrants or children of immigrants and the union supports the rights for undocumented immigrants.

“You either acknowledge the existence of these 11 million people or you leave them in the shadows,” he said. “Leaving them in the shadows is not productive for them or for the country.”

Atlantic City resident Cristal Barrios, 15, attended the rally with her mother, Abigail, who came to America 20 years ago from Mexico to escape violence in her home country and provide a better life for her family.

“She came here so we can have a better future,” Cristal Barrios said.

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Follow Joel Landau on Twitter @landaupressofac

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