FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Farmworkers are the backbone of the Central Valley. They are the people working in scorching hot and bitterly cold temperatures to bring us the fruits and vegetables so many of us savor.
"It's very hard work," said Maria Aguilar, who has been harvesting fruit for 19 years. "Hard work. You have to be on your knees, bending, constantly. It's really heavy and difficult."
It's an open secret that many farmworkers in America are unauthorized immigrants.
About half of California's crop workers are undocumented, according to the Department of Agriculture. Many are long-time residents with US-born children living in fear of deportation.
"Due to poverty, I migrated here for a second opportunity, to follow the American Dream, and to be able to provide for my family and my parents," Aguilar said.
The May First Coalition, made up of local organizations, is calling for immigration reform that provides protections to immigrants and a pathway to citizenship. The coalition has been organizing an annual march since 2006.
"What we're saying is that we have to recognize the hard labor that we're doing, the contribution we're doing, because nobody else would be doing this," said Miguel Villegas Ventura, an organizer of the May First Coalition march. "Our demand is a pathway to citizenship for everyone. That there are no barriers in obtaining this citizenship."
The barrier he's referring to is the 'three- and ten-year bars' Congress passed in 1996.
The Act prevents individuals who've been in the U.S. without legal status from returning to the U.S. if they voluntarily departed.
"We are not taking jobs. We're not trying to take away anything from anybody. We're just here to work," said Villegas Ventura.
Community members are invited to support the cause and participate in the march at Fresno City Hall on Saturday, May 1st at 4 pm.