Elkhart community members call for immigration reform

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The controversial topic of immigration reform was front and center at a forum in Elkhart Sunday.

Dara Marquez has lived in Elkhart practically all her life. Next year, she'll be a junior at St. Mary's College.

"I've grown and been able to discover more about myself," Dara said.

But what separates Marquez from other people her age is a number, or lack of one.

"When it came to senior year in high school I thought my grades would be enough, my involvement would be enough, but that wasn't go to be the case because of the lack of the social security number," she said.

Marquez was three years old when her parents brought her to the U.S from Mexico. She is an undocumented immigrant

"Having lack of social security means you can't obtain a loan, you can't apply for FAFSA, you can't do many things the federal government can do for you," Dara said.

"They're in our communities, but not part of our communities. They live with us, but we don't treat them as legal equals with us, which is not the American way and it's bad for our community," said Tony Flora, president of the North Central Indiana AFL-CIO Council.

"The immigration laws of our country are broken," Flora said.

Just before July 4th, the Senate passed an immigration reform bill. But the House has yet to come up with it's own version. Flora wants to see area Congresswoman Jackie Walorski push for immigration reform .

"Most of all, it would put the 11 million undocumented people on a pathway to getting legal status," he said.

For Dara, immigration reform means getting a permanent social security number to be able to pave the way for a better quality of life in the only country she's ever really known.

"It's just that comfort and security. A social security number obviously allows us to be able to have less fear in the sense that we're more secure," Dara said.

Rep. Walorski says she hopes the House will engage in an open and honest discussion on this. In a statement, she wrote, "We must recognize this attempt at immigration reform is an opportunity to learn from our past mistakes and ensure the enforcement of certain provisions like border security, are key components to any future laws."