The May 1 event, coinciding with International Workers Day, started at Rengstorff Park, circled San Antonio shopping center and marched for 2 miles along El Camino Real, with demonstrators calling on President Barack Obama to take action and stop the high deportation levels under his administration. As the march rounded the corner of Castro Street and El Camino Real, 635 people were counted.
The turnout could be explained by the involvement of churches up and down the Peninsula, mostly Catholic and Unitarian-Universalist churches.
"It's the good side of churches, they can be compassionate, though not always and not all," said Steve Rovno, who had come with his wife from San Mateo where they attend a Unitarian church. "We are all people and should be treated as equals. These are the people that do the hard work. I'm appalled at the disparities between the rich and the poor."
In a rally at the Civic Center plaza, event organizer and Mountain View Day Worker Center director Maria Marroquin told the crowd, "There's 11 million people living in the dark who need to be legalized in this country," and vowed to start a movement nationwide.
Marroquin was set to begin a fast and vigil for 11 days after the march, 11 days to represent the estimated 11 million immigrants in the country without legal status. The fasting was set to begin with a blessing from clergy members that evening, and would travel to various churches up and down the Peninsula each day.
"The fast, to me, is a radical thing," said Sylvia Villasenor, a Mountain View resident who once worked with Cesar Chavez. "It's an ancient form of prayer. Jesus fasted before he worked. That is awesome to me — no small contribution."
Last year the federal government deported 409,842 immigrants, about 11,000 a day. Organizers say that is causing a crisis for families and children who are separated from their parents.
"It is immoral that families must wait more than 20 years to be reunited with a loved one," said Patrick J. McGrath, Catholic Bishop of San Jose, to the crowd in the plaza. While trying to cross the border, "over 400 people die every year in the desert. This must end and it must end now."
Organizers of the march publicized a set of demands for immigration reform, saying it must include protections for worker's rights and civil rights, reject militarization of the border and provide a path to citizenship for all of the approximately 11 million immigrants in the U.S.
Among the signs in the march was one that read "Mountain View Dreamers," referring to immigrants brought here as kids who would have been given a path to citizenship under the DREAM Act if it had passed Congress.
One "DREAMer" is Guadalupe Garcia, who has worked at a popular Castro Street eatery for years, despite having a degree from Cal State East Bay.
"It is like living two lives — what people see of you and your other side," she said. "People who know me, they assume I have a legal status. They ask, 'Why aren't you doing your career?' I have to find reasons they will believe."
The truth is, "Once you go higher, they always ask, 'Do you have a driver's license? A car?' There's all these obstacles in the way. Even volunteering is hard without a Social Security number," she said.
Garcia's life changed last year when President Obama allowed certain immigrants under age 30 — who were brought here as children — to be able to legally work in the U.S. Garcia is now applying to graduate schools to become a social worker.
"There are so many open doors now," she said.