With the Senate expected to vote on a sweeping immigration reform bill early this week, the Lowcountry Immigration Coalition held a public meeting Sunday to discuss how to get the measure through the U.S. House of Representatives.
Local immigration-reform advocates and featured speaker Laura Cahue, a community organizer with the S.C. Immigration Coalition and the S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Project, encouraged attendees to lobby their House representatives before the bill crosses over.
They passed out postcards for the dozens in attendance to sign and mail, encouraging lawmakers to act.
"I don't need to tell you it's still an uphill fight," said coalition co-chairman George Kanuck.
The Senate is preparing for a preliminary vote on the bill Monday or Tuesday, with a goal of passing it by July 4. The bill is likely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate with as many as 70 votes, but it faces a more uncertain future in the Republican-controlled House.
Cahue, a Mexican-American born in Chicago, shared what immigration reform meant to her at the meeting. Cahue said, although she and her family were U.S. citizens, her mother sent her back to Mexico when she was growing up to protect her from anti-immigrant sentiments brewing at the time.
Cahue said she feels fortunate that she knows both countries, but that's not the case for undocumented immigrants brought here as children.
"There are a lot of people who belong legally to one nation but only know another," she said. "They are caught in this policy."
The meeting including a screening of the 30-minute documentary "The Dream is Now," about young undocumented immigrants whose whose plans for the future -- including a girl who wants to become a surgeon and a boy who wants to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps -- are in jeopardy because they aren't legal residents.
The immigration-reform bill includes measures to beef up border security and offers a years-long path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Chris Olsen of Sun City Hilton Head said she believes people who have worked hard and lived in the United States for nearly their entire lives should have the same options to follow their dreams as Americans.
"I'm really sympathetic with these people," Olsen said. "We should be honored to invite them to this country."
Follow reporter Allison Stice at twitter.com/IPBG_Allison.