Boston-10/05/13 - Mateo Cisterna, 3 from Dorchester sits atop his dad, Andres shoulders as they march with hundreds of others down Boylston Street to the Boston Common as they demanded comprehensive immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship. Boston Globe staff Photo by John Tlumacki(metro)
Mateo Cisterna, 3, of Dorchester sat atop the shoulders of his dad, Andres, shoulders as they marched with hundreds of others down Boylston Street to the Boston Common.
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Most of the hundreds of signs held aloft by immigration reform demonstrators this afternoon were professionally printed — slick, camera-ready flyers handed out by organizers—but one stood out. Written in brightly colored marker and replete with glitter glue, it said: “LEGALIZE MY MOM!”

Daniela Zarate, 20, was the sign’s owner. She helped lead a contingent of Williams College students to a rally for immigration policy reform orchestrated by the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Advocacy Coalition. The event, which saw about 750 demonstrators march from Copley Square to Boston Common, was one of more than 100 similar demonstrations nationwide today.

The rallies are part of a push by advocates to pressure federal lawmakers into delivering comprehensive reform that would give millions of illegal immigrants the right to drive, attend state universities and colleges for the in-state rate, and to eventually become U.S. citizens.

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“My mom was 18 and pregnant when she crossed the border,” Zarate said, detailing how she, her mother, and her two siblings then lived in fear in San Diego with her abusive father, a US citizen who had brought them over. “We knew my mother was illegal, and we never wanted to call the police to tell them about our situation because we thought they were going to deport her. And we had to live under that regime until I was 18.”

Zarate argued that her mother, who works as a housekeeper, is exactly the sort of person who would benefit from — and deserves — a pathway to becoming a legal resident.

“My mother has been here for 24 years, and the worst she’s ever done is gotten a speeding ticket for trying to get me to school on time,” Zarate said. “She works from 7 in the morning to 7 at night for almost nothing... We don’t come here to mooch off the country and take jobs away from people. We’re the people doing the jobs that no one really wants.”

The long-planned series of rallies, set to culminate in a march of the Mall in Washington Tuesday, brought together a broad coalition of faith, labor, and advocacy groups. Those factions, groups bused in from Worcester, Brockton, and other communities around Massachusetts, mixed freely at today’s rally in Boston. Police temporarily closed Boylston Street in the Back Bay while the group marched down the street, chanting, “yes, we can!” in Spanish as tourists and shoppers enjoying the warm fall day watched.

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley attended the rally, saying that while local leaders cannot set immigration policy, they must help organize their constituents to pressure federal legislators.

“I can’t believe that in 2013 we are still fighting this fight,” Pressley said in an interview. “We’re really just one country and one community. Whenever the bonds of community are broken... we have to remedy that. It’s everyone’s problem.”