Immigrants Rally Nationally to Protest Arizona Law
April 28, 2010 By Alison Bowen
NEW YORK — Backlash against the Arizona law emerged throughout the country Tuesday as immigrants took to the streets, asking President Barack Obama to strike down the law.
In New York, a downtown rally brought dozens of people with signs saying “Immigrants’ Rights are Human Rights” and “Stop Deporting Families.” Speaker after speaker criticized the situation in Arizona.
“Police now become immigration officers,” said Lutheran Pastor Gary Mills at the rally, which was sponsored by local immigrant groups. Mills said the country needs “laws that protect rather than condemn those living in our borders, whether documented or not.”
People at the rally also gathered to protest the Secure Communities program, planned to be in every law enforcement agency by 2013.
New York’s was one of nine planned rallies in cities participating in “Uncovering the Truth,” a campaign investigating police collaborations with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
A dozen NYPD officers encircled the group at the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building, one politely asking people to stay on the sidewalk. Another wore a “Police, ICE” jacket.
Blanca Portilla stumbled across the protest as she was leaving immigration court, hoping to gain residency. She pulled her court papers out of a manila envelope, describing how she fled Colombia when guerrillas killed her husband and threatened her.
Lawyers told her she had a great case for asylum, she said, but only if she’d filed when she arrived 20 years ago. Now, she lives in Canada, visiting New York to see her citizen children.
“Arizona is a big problem,” she said in Spanish, adding that the law affects everyone. “We are many.”
As the Arizona law stirs up discussion, Democrats in Washington are feeling pressure rise to work on an immigration bill.
Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signaled that immigration reform could be a topic even before climate change. However, South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham later lashed out, calling the proposal “phony” and backing out of deliberations for an energy bill.
Graham’s helped legislation for both issues, co-authoring a March column in The Washington Post with Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, “The right way to mend immigration.”
The president maintains that both immigration and energy are important issues, and that Congress could balance both at the same time. Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the administration was considering a court challenge to the Arizona law.