A new U.S. Senate immigration bill cleared a big hurdle when a Senate majority voted to open debate on it.
It would give millions of people living illegally in the U.S. a path to citizenship, and now there's a big push locally to raise awareness.
"That helps keep their families together. If defers deportation and stops family separations. That's kind of the main reasons why we are behind this bill," said Latin American Coalition representative Armando Bellmas.
Starting Wednesday, the Latin American Coalition is kicking off a big push to raise awareness, staring with a meeting in Washington, D.C., with Sen. Richard Burr and Sen. Kay Hagan.
On Thursday, they'll host events all day, including a public meeting and a press conference.
At night, group members will flood the streets of uptown for a march.
"One of the reasons we're in Washington, D.C., today is to talk about why immigration is good for business in N.C.," Bellmas said.
The Latin America Coalition said immigrants already contribute to the economy by paying taxes, and they could pay more.
They make up almost 10 percent of the work force in North Carolina.
According to a study by the Center for American Progress, a full path to legalization would add $1.5 trillion to the GDP.
The U.S. Senate’s measure would change the way American businesses hire immigrants and make it easier for foreigners to come here legally.
In North Carolina, lawmakers are working on their own form of immigration enforcement. It's called Reclaim NC ACT. It would allow police to check immigration statuses and detain those they stop with reasonable suspicion of illegal status.
Some Latin groups feel parts of the bill will lead to racial profiling and separation of families, and it could end up costing the state millions of dollars.
Bill sponsor Rep. Harry Warren (R) said there are plenty of Latin organizations who support the measure mainly for the driving privileges it allows immigrants. Warren said the proposal is not addressing illegal immigration but to stop criminal activity
"There are tens of thousands of drivers in our state right now who are driving on licenses (that are) revoked. They don't have insurance and we need to address that. That's a public safety issue," he said.
U.S. Senate leaders could vote on their measure before they break for July 4th.
The state measure has passed two House committees and is about to go to the House floor. It could be up for a vote within the next two weeks.