MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Thousands of immigration reform advocates marched through Milwaukee on Wednesday, May 1st carrying signs and chanting “si se puede,” which means “yes we can,” with the belief that this is the most politically opportune moment in decades to achieve immigration reform legislation.
"We have a great optimism this year that we'll actually get some kind of reform done. The political climate has shifted. Before, it was always friction. It was always hard for us to get any good legislation," Primitivo Torres with Voces de la Frontera said.
Democrats and Republicans in Congress agree on the need to address the issue.
"Paul Ryan was an original co-sponsor of comprehensive immigration reform," Luis Gutierrez (D - Chicago) said.
Gutierrez says Ryan could hold the key to passing a new law.
“When you take a look at what will be accomplished if we actually achieve this bipartisan reform, and I really think we are the farthest on the path ever since I've been looking at this issue and I've been in Congress for 15 years, Luis (Gutierrez) has been there even longer, it will help our economy,” U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R - Janesville) said.
It’s estimated that there are more than 150,000 undocumented workers in the Milwaukee area, and 11 million across the country.
The march began in Walker’s Point and stretched along 5th street to the 6th Street Viaduct. The “May Day” event wraps up at Pere Marquette Park with a rally.
15-year-old Jose Ramirez marched in support of immigration reform on Wednesday.
"I have a lot of family members who are undocumented, and I want to be here to support them, even though I'm documented, to support them and the 11 million who are here, that don't have documents," Ramirez said.
30-year-old Alberto Salgado works at a Milwaukee restaurant and takes classes at MATC. He came to Milwaukee from Mexico 19 years ago.
"We are working people, nice people. We live in this country only for work, and for trying to better life," Salgado said.
"This is a nation of immigrants. We've always welcomed immigrants to our country, so it affects us all, directly or indirectly, one way or another," Torres said.
The march has been held in Milwaukee every year since 2006.