Kicking off an event calling for immigration reform, religious leaders and business and community members gathered in east Mesa as part of a national movement.
At the core of the Wednesday night gathering was a mantra to keep families together, improve the economy and to humanely deal with the influx of undocumented people in America from all parts of the world, said Reform Immigration For America organizers.
An interpretive dance dedicated to the plight of undocumented workers, religious songs and a skit depicting a Mexican family in which some of the members were in America illegally, all expressed the stories of broken families that organizers said needed to be told.
As a troupe of actors portrayed a Mexican family sitting before a table giving thanks over their morning breakfast, another actor wearing the big paper-mache head of an old, silver-haired sheriff, loomed large off stage.
"Do we have any minute men, minute women, or minute children here tonight?" the faux sheriff barked at the audience. "Good. You in the back, get up here."
Once the Mexican family finished their morning prayer, giving thanks for of all things a place at the table in America, the sheriff stormed inside and separated the family, forcing the parents to one side of a symbolic line extended from the audience.
"And you, you're going to foster care," the actor portraying the unnamed sheriff ordered, while leading the youngest actor away.
Returning to the stage and never naming the sheriff she depicted, the actress stated: "I do not hate the sheriff; hate is too strong a word."
The tenure of the night's gathering instead was one of cooperation to an end that would solve problems and not fan the flames, she said.
Whitney Hancock, an Arizona State University student and member of the school group Campus Crusade, performed an interpretive dance as a statement in support of undocumented workers.
"The current immigration system is terrible," Hancock told the audience.
Describing her upbringing in a Texas suburb, she said she felt safe growing up. But some of the students she teaches dance at an inner city center in Phoenix tell her of daily raids on their families, and the carting away of members who are in the country illegally.
"We should love our neighbors as ourselves and those kids deserve the same protected environment that I had growing up," she said.
Raquel Teran, the director of the state chapter of Reform Immigration For America, said similar stories of broken families, economic strife and compromised national security could be lessened with comprehensive immigration reform.
"Comprehensive means a complete change to the system," Teran said. "To do this we have to build support among the people, among our elected officials, because immigration reform will impact everyone in America."
The state chapter's spokeswoman, Fabiola Reyes, blamed a poor immigration system for broken families, economic strife and security concerns raised by immigrants breaching the U.S. border en masse.
"We know that people entering this country need to be legalized, and they are not looking for special treatment - just a chance," Reyes said, depicting current immigration laws as a hopeless hurdle many immigrants face, which leads them down the road of illegally entering the country. "If there were reforms, people would gladly go to the back of the line - if they thought they had a chance."
While no protestors were seen at the Wednesday night event, Fabiola said her organization is trying to open dialogues with groups that oppose immigration reform.
Fabiola said the weeklong national event was the first such immigration reform demonstration of its size in the country, including large rallies in North Carolina, Nevada and California, among other states.
The night's event held at Mercy Christian Fellowship in east Mesa was just one of many across the Valley, including a dinner also to be held in Mesa tonight, Teran said.
"Our goal this week is to do a lot of smaller events like this," Teran said of the event, which attracted about 100 supporters. "It's good for everyone in America."