SANTA FE — It was no coincidence that immigrants seeking a path to citizenship united on International Workers' Day.

They marched through the streets of Santa Fe to spread their message that immigrants are good for business.

Many arrived at the rally Wednesday evening just after getting off work. They said they are an important cog in the U.S. economy, and they would like the chance to be Americans in every respect.

Many marchers wore T-shirts saying, "The time is now." Maria Cristina Lopez was one of them.

She helped start the immigrant organization Somos Un Pueblo Unido in her kitchen 17 years ago. Now, it operates out of a community building tucked between a residential neighborhood and a business district.

"People who have been here, working hard, helping the economy, should have a way to citizenship that does not take years," Lopez said.

She said estimates on the number of immigrants living in the United States ranged from 11 million to 13 million, but she was not convinced the figures were sound anymore.

"It could be less because of the economy being bad," she said.

Staff organizers at Somos Un Pueblo Unido said immigrants are the backbone of two of New Mexico's labor forces, one in agriculture and the other in the oil and gas industry.

Santa Fe Mayor David Coss arrived at the rally when most of the 50 or so marchers had spilled into streets.

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Most said they were optimistic that, even in these times when Congress cannot agree on much of anything, an immigration bill could pass. Coss shared the marchers' upbeat outlook, saying the climate for an immigration bill was right.

Asked what he meant, he said: "We're creating the climate because of what we did in the 2012 election," including President Obama's reelection.

Doug Doran, who is retired, said he believed immigration rallies across New Mexico will have receptive audiences.

"It's so clear that immigration reform would be a win-win for everybody economically," he said.

Those who disagree with him say immigrants in the country unlawfully are taking jobs from U.S. citizens. But Doran said he saw evidence that immigrants had strengthened Santa Fe's service-based economy and contributed to its neighborhoods.

"Jobs aren't being lost because of immigrants. Jobs are being taken by corporations trying to make products more cheaply overseas," he said.

Similar immigration rallies occurred this week in Lovington, Gallup and Las Cruces. Another rally is planned for Thursday in Farmington.

Milan Simonich, Santa Fe bureau chief of Texas-New Mexico Newspapers, can be reached at msimonich@tnmnp.com or 505-820-6898. His blog is at nmcapitolreport.com.