Allentown City Council took a symbolic stand in support of comprehensive U.S. immigration reform Wednesday night.
The seven-member council unanimously passed a resolution recommending "federal enactment of rational solutions to fix our broken immigration system."
The resolution states that an estimated 11 million to 14 million immigrants "contribute to our communities, the economy and the country
- yet are denied essential rights."
Saying comprehensive immigration reform is urgently needed and widely supported, council said such reform will .keep families together, recognize the harm caused by deportations and "respect the rights of all persons regardless of where they come from."
Council's action was commended by Rafael Collazo of the National Council of La Raza, which calls itself the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization.
"I'm really proud to be here today," said Collazo. "The National Council of La Raza really thanks you for your leadership."
The resolution was introduced by council president Julio Guridy.
"Unfortunately, the immigration process in the United States is broken," said Guridy.
"We desperately need a comprehensive immigration bill. But the federal government has failed to enact one for the last 10 years."
The approved resolution will be sent to both federal and state legislators who represent Allentown.
"It's long overdue," said Guridy of the resolution. "We've been trying to pass a resolution like this for quite some time."
He said similar resolutions have been passed in many other places.
"This is not just something we made up out of nothing," said Guridy.
"It's a movement that's going on throughout the country, in many cities.
"We want to show the world that we are a progressive city and that we want the best for our citizens."
Council member Peter Schweyer thanked Guridy for bringing the resolution forward.
Council member Cynthia Mota, who was born in Dominican Republican, said she came to Allentown when she was eight years old.
"I was undocumented for many years," said Mota. "Thank God, at the age of 16, I became legal, thanks to my father."
But she indicated the ingrained fear of being deported still makes her feel uncomfortable when she sees police.
"It is a horrible feeling to live in the darkness and to live in fear," said Mota. "So I do support immigration reform 100 percent."
Guridy said nearly 45 percent of Allentown's residents are Hispanic, "but it's not only about Hispanics. It's about the diverse community that we have here. We have a large Syrian community, a large Chinese community, Vietnamese, Korean - and they are all contributing members of our society."
He added about 29 different languages are spoken by students attending Allentown School District.
Guridy said the lack of immigration reform is forcing million of people to "live in the shadows" even though they pay taxes and are providing economic support to the country.
The resolution maintains immigration reform will promote economic growth.
It also calls for equal access to all levels of education. It recommends enactment of the Dream Act, which gives young people who grew up in the United States and graduated from high school the opportunity to become citizens if they go to college or serve in the U.S. military.
Council's resolution also states: "Immigration reform should protect the right of all families to stay together, regardless of immigration status, family structure, sexual orientation, gender identity or martial status."