By John Ramos

HEALDSBURG (KPIX) — Immigrant rights advocates took to the streets and roads of Sonoma County Sunday morning in a show of support for undocumented workers and what they called an effort to “walk the walk” in the immigration debate.

“We are walking 12 miles in the name of the 12 million undocumented,” said organizer Renee Saucedo. “We’ve waited long enough. It’s been decades and decades.”

About 100 immigrants and their advocates took off on a four-hour march from Santa Rosa to Healdsburg. In a show of organized strength, they passed by restaurants that rely on immigrant labor and vineyards cultivated and harvested by immigrant workers. They said the intention was to urge local leaders, both in Congress and county government, to work harder to provide the undocumented with legal-resident status.

“We work the hardest jobs here. We maintain the wine industry here. We deserve a path to citizenship and safe and healthy workplaces,” said Saucedo, an immigrant rights advocate with a group called ALMAS.

She said giving undocumented people resident status would decrease exploitation of workers because the fear of deportation would be gone. That’s the hope of a young man named Javier who was carrying a sign that read “Legalize My Mom.”

“She lives here but she doesn’t have the privileges that other people do here,” Javier said.

Organizers say they want the county board of supervisors to pass an immigrant rights resolution that would be heard by members of Congress as they debate the immigration issue. Meanwhile, the marchers got support from a number of onlookers, like Tim Goss who said he doesn’t consider immigrants to be a threat to his community.

“Sometimes they come in to this county as farm laborers and they end up working in construction, they end up starting their own businesses,” he said, “so they really end up being quite a contribution to the county itself.”

Sonoma County resident Dan Wright said he thinks animosity toward immigrants will eventually die out on its own as the younger generation takes over.

“I think it’s a natural evolution, really,” he said. “The hardcore racists, or whatever, until they die off, they’re never going to change so that’s what has to happen. It’s a generational thing.”

Marchers would rather not wait for evolution to take its course. They said they’re hoping it won’t be another generation before immigrants can come out of the shadows.

“Our community — my community -— doesn’t have a lot of money so that’s not how we influence politics and policy. But we do have our bodies,” said Saucedo. “So we’re out on the street to show people we are a force here. You need to hear us. We have certain interests you need to address.”