Friday, May 24, 2024

Thousands March to Demand Action on Immigration Reform

While most eyes were turned towards the historic vote on overhauling the nation’s healthcare system, tens of thousands of demonstrators filled five blocks of the National Mall in Washington, DC to call on the President and Congress to address another looming policy issue in need of fixing – immigration. 

 The organizers of the “March for America” laid out a litany of reasons and arguments for why lawmakers should to make comprehensive immigration reform the next major issue policymakers address

 “The reality is that immigrants keep jobs in America, they help businesses move forward,” said Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.  Her group was one of community, labor and faith-based groups nationwide that traveled to the nation’s capital to lend their voices to the cause. 

Chants of “yes, we can” in English and Spanish competed for public and media attention as the unfortunate overlapping of events kept most of the media focus on the House of Representatives where events surrounding the health care bill were unfolding minute by minute.

However, the President did take time to address the the crowd via a videotaped message displayed on huge screens, promising to keep working on the issue but avoiding a specific time frame.

“I have always pledged to be your partner as we work to fix our broken immigration system, and that’s a commitment that I reaffirm today,” the president said.

Referring to a bipartisan outline of legislation presented by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Obama warned “You know as well as I do that this won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight.”

The difficult climate for legislative action that has battered Capitol Hill did not deter speaker after speaker form demanding immediate legislative action.

 “Every day without reform is a day when 12 million hard-working immigrants must live in the shadow of fear,” said Representative Nydia M. Velázquez, chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

“Don’t forget that in the last presidential election 10 million Hispanics came out to vote,” she said. She told the crowd to tell lawmakers “that you will not forget which side of this debate they stood on.”

Representative Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) who has long been a leader on the immigration reform issue expressed optimism that they would see some movement on an immigration bill this year.

“I see a new focus on the part of this president,” Gutierrez said. “That’s why we are here to say we are not invisible.”

Joining immigration activists, and immigrants themselves were a number of African-American leaders who attended the event to express their support  including the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Benjamin T. Jealous, president of the N.A.A.C.P; Cornel West, a Princeton scholar, and Marc H. Morial, a former mayor of New Orleans and the president of the National Urban League.

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) said he thought an immigration bill could pass at the end of the year, after the storm of the November elections had passed.,0,6442141.story