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March for immigration reform draws hundreds in Santa Rosa

It was too small for the liking of some, but it was still a vocal crowd that marched through downtown Santa Rosa on Sunday in an annual demonstration of support for overhauling immigration laws.

But as the familiar chants of "Si se puede" -- Yes we can -- filled Old Courthouse Square, where hundreds of people arrived around 4 p.m., Nati Ramirez worried that the whole of downtown wasn't flooded with marchers.

"They're not getting it, that it's in the air now, that we have this possibility," said Ramirez, who works for the county Health Services department and volunteers with the United Farm Workers union, which sponsored the event.

Santa Rosa Immigration March

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Indeed, the showing seemed at odds with the prospects for meaningful bipartisan progress on the contentious immigration issue, considered to be the best in two decades after Hispanic voters turned on Republican candidates last year.

"In previous years, when we were fighting for change, there were so many people," said Caroline Ba?elos, president of the Sonoma County Latino Democrat Club.

"Now that it's close to some kind of reform, nobody's here," she said, waiting for the start of the annual rally and march held in honor of the late Cesar Chavez, a farm worker, labor leader and civil rights activist who co-founded what became the UFW.

Similar marches were scheduled this weekend in more than a half-dozen cities across California, including Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, Salinas, Oxnard and Coachella.

"We need to fight more," added Georgina Warmoth of Rohnert Park, a Petaluma Community Health Center board member.

The crowd, which gathered slowly at a Sebastopol Road parking lot, eventually grew to between 400 and 500 people, far fewer than the 7,000 to 10,000 people who marched in 2007, and the 5,000 in 2010.

But it was healthy enough for Oscar Chavez, the executive director of nonprofit service provider CAP Sonoma County, to say, "I'm very optimistic and hopeful that we're starting a movement."


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