Rally For Immigration Reform Draws Tens of Thousands to Washington; Protesters Call For Comprehensive Law in 2010

March 23, 2010 8:42 am 7 comments
Protesters demonstrating in favor of comprehensive immigration reform in Washington, March 21. Image courtesy of

Protesters demonstrating in favor of comprehensive immigration reform in Washington, March 21. Image courtesy of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium

WASHINGTON — With the nation focused on the final passage of President Barack Obama’s controversial healthcare reform through Congress on Sunday, another group competed for lawmakers’ attention.

Tens of thousands of people gathered at the National Mall in front of Capitol Hill as part of the March For America, a rally to demand that Congress institute a comprehensive immigration reform, as promised by President Obama on the campaign trail. The rally served as a reminder that while Obama enjoys a triumph with the passing of healthcare reform after months of acrimonious debate, more tough political battles over divisive issues lay ahead.

“It is not fair that they ignore us for so long,” said one attendee from Brooklyn, New York, who declined to be identified because of undocumented status. “What we want is equality for everyone because we are all human beings.”

Over 110 organizations from across the country sponsored the event, according to the event Web site, and the diversity of participants present at the march highlighted the multiplicity of immigration issues that comprehensive immigration reform hopes to cover.

The presence of the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC) served as a reminder that immigration reform is not just an issue that affects Latinos. About 10 percent of undocumented persons in the U.S. are Asian American and Pacific Islander, according to NAKASEC.

Multiple gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual (GLBT) organizations also attended. Unlike heterosexual couples, gay partners are unable to sponsor their partners who are foreign nationals. “We feel comprehensive immigration reform is not comprehensive unless it includes all families and that is why we are for the United American Families Act….which would allow gay and lesbians to sponsor our partners and children for immigration,” said Julie Kruse from the organization Immigration Equality.

Marion, a French national living in New York on a work visa, and her U.S.-citizen partner Tina attended the march after witnessing the large number of people losing their jobs in New York City. “It hit close to home that if we were a straight couple, we would get married and she could stay,” said Tina. Without the right to marry in New York state, however, Marion would have 30 days to find another job or lose her visa.

Other groups spoke about the need for proper healthcare for undocumented immigrants, raids against undocumented workers, and the separation of families under current immigration law. “There have been so many raids, families separated, and [the government] justifies it saying that [the immigrants] are criminals, but it is a lie. Most of us are just here to work,” said the Brooklyn attendee.

Organizations in favor of the Dream Act chanted their demand for “education, not deportation.” The Dream Act would allow undocumented students with a high school degree or GED who entered the country before age 16 and have no criminal record to pay in-state tuition at public universities in their state of residence.

“There are two, three generations living here without legalization. Their children couldn’t go to colleges or for higher education,” said Dr. Mujahiv Ghazi from the Council of Islamic Organization of Greater Chicago. “Improvement of the immigration laws is what we need today.”

Reflecting on the event the next day, Eunsook Lee, the Executive Director of NAKASEC, appeared satisfied with the march, but also eager to take the next step in the process towards passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

The lack of progress on immigration reform owes partly to the failure of lawmakers to introduce a comprehensive reform bill that appeals to both Democrats and Republicans. On Friday, however, Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) published an op-ed in the Washington Post offering a four-pronged plan for immigration reform, signaling that a proposal may be on the way.

Among the senators’ propositions: giving out biometric Social Security cards, strengthening border security and finding a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants living in the United States. They also suggested attracting skilled immigrants, who have PhD and master’s degrees, with green cards. The two legislators met with Obama last week, a first step toward satisfying calls for comprehensive reform.

Lee hopes that with the support that some Congress members showed for the march, an immigration bill will be introduced by April 15.

“It will be a long process to get a good bill.” Lee said. “The march gave it the necessary push we needed to get Congress to act.”

7 Comments

  • We are not impressed with 10’s of thousands illegal aliens invading our country.
    We suggest you march in Mexico.

    There will never be a bill passed to give amnesty to crimals in this decade.

    Forget it…read the polls of the american people. NO AMESTY !!

  • First of all Laurie why would they march in Mexico if this does not involve only latinos, but it also involves people from all around the world. And 2nd of all there will be a bill passed because they can not be ignored any longer!! Your ancestors were immigrants who came here for a better life, these people are not any different then any of us… so please Laurie do not be so judgmental and say they there are all criminals when that is totaly not true, yes some may be, but those are the people that will be kicked out.. but not the hardworking students and families who come here to find a better life.

  • Disillusioned

    Dream Act for Latinos – Nightmare for others. The primary remedy offered is always some kind of “amnesty”, but amnesty is inherently unfair- especially to Asians (who historically were excluded from immigration), Africans, and Eastern and Western Europeans.

    This is because the United States has a “worldwide limit” to the number of immigrant visas (or green cards) each year. The worldwide total U.S. visas for family sponsored cases is about 226,000 a year, and for employment based cases it is about 140,000.

    More people apply than there are yearly visas available. As a result there is a visa shortage and U.S. State Department set up a waiting list of people. This list is in Priority Date order. The Priority Date is the date the immigration petition was received by the USCIS.

    There are tens, maybe hundreds, of thousands of law abiding people on the Priority Date list some waiting abroad for more than one or two decades to come.

    Amnesty as proposed under the last McCain Feingold attempt (summer 2007) would not address these patient law abiding people- instead it gives preference to those who would not wait and turned a blind-eye to our laws.

    A good example of how this is unfair is the last amnesty known as Section 245(i) of the Immigration Act (see immigration statistics at http://www.dhs.gov – amnesty: provisions primarily benefited Latin America. Could it be an effort to catholicize the U.S.?..maybe not a bad thing) and as the visas were charged against the worldwide limit, it resulted “retrogression” –moving backward on the Priority Date list- for the patient law abiding people waiting in line.

  • Enteng K. Bsotee

    LAURIE, calm down for second and reflect a little. You’re too angry. You have to realize you are offending the “non-criminals” in this pool of illegal immigrants. There is a good portion of Asians and Europeans most of whom are college educated ‘human beings’ that are contributing to the U.S. economy inspite the fact that they have very limited options because of their immigration status. Nevertheless, they work, live in peace and do not abuse the social services or the safety net. When you say all ‘illegals’ are criminals, you are OFFENDING this people. How would you feel if one would say that all WHITES tends to be racists? Don’t you think it’s unfair too?

  • Enteng K. Bsotee

    LAURIE, calm down for second and reflect a little. You’re too angry. You have to realize you are offending the “non-criminals” in this pool of illegal immigrants. There is a good portion of Asians and Europeans most of whom are college educated ‘human beings’ that are contributing to the U.S. economy inspite the fact that they have very limited options because of their immigration status. Nevertheless, they work, live in peace and do not abuse the social services or the safety net. When you say all ‘illegals’ are criminals, you are OFFENDING these people. How would you feel if one would say that all WHITES tends to be racists? Don’t you think it’s unfair too?

  • Nice article Paola.

    In regards to immigration reform, latino immigrants who are day laborers and workers in service, construction, and other similar sectors are paid lower than the average American worker. These us citizens’ wages are driven down because of the surplus of cheap immigrant labor. We need immigration reform to legalize these immigrants so that they can have rights and they can be paid, at the least, the national minimum wage. As long as companies and wealthy families have access to cheap labor they will continue to utilize and take advantage of the inexpensive immigrants’ work. Since businesses and people already rely so heavily on immigrants we should legalize immigrants and give them the same rights as citizens have so that the current citizens are not screwed by the warped labor market.

    For those who are overly prejudice and hate on immigrants, unless you are full blooded Native American, your ancestors were immigrants and you are a hypocrite, denying your own heritage and your family’s own struggles. Your ancestors struggled and experienced tremendous hatred and prejudice and you are dishing out that same hatred and prejudice, while ignoring your past.

    Finally, a lot of gay and lesbian couples who get married to a resident or recent immigrant do not have the same rights as straight couples and their partner cannot receive citizenship as a straight couple with an immigrant partner could receive.

  • RightMominBucks

    Where’s the compassion for the 25 million unemployed American workers and their families? I think American’s patience for watching illegal immigrants and the profiteers of illegal immigration stage their public contempt for our laws and their loud, unjustified demands for our government has just worn thin. The good thing is that several states answered these tantrums by proposing and passing tougher immigration enforcement measures. Si Se Puede!

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