Wednesday, April 10 marked a significant day of action for immigration reform. Begun by the Alliance for Citizenship, thousands of people rallied at the capital in Washington DC and at over 50 other events across the country to urge their legislators to take action.
The events hoped to encourage faster action from Congress. A bipartisan group of eight senators has been preparing a proposal to reform the immigration system, and, advocates hope, give a path to citizenship for the reported 11 million people who have entered the US illegally. The 844-page bill was introduced to the Senate on April 17, a week after the marches. The event’s website calls for people to “educate, march, rally, pray, and knock on the doors of Congress until President Obama signs commonsense immigration reform that includes a realistic path to citizenship.”
Events took place across the country, including rallies, marches, press conferences, phone banks, town hall meetings, concerts, voter registration drives, vigils, and an “Undocumented Coming Out Day” in San Diego. Many demonstrators shared personal stories about how the flawed immigration system has impacted their families and communities. A small sampling of events includes:
There were tens of thousands of supporters in Washington DC. People filled five blocks of the Washington Mall. Although there was a strong showing from Latino groups, there were attendees that have immigrated from diverse parts of the world, including many from Asian countries. Community groups attended from more than 30 US states; many traveled by overnight by bus to be there. It was the largest mobilization for immigration reform in seven years.
President Obama recorded a videotaped message to address the crowd, promising his support. “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. Other speakers included the president of the NAACP, members of Congress, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Cornel West and Puerto Rican singer Olga Tanon.
“The angst and trepidation in our communities is unprecedented,” said Reverend Samuel Rodriguez. “This is our Selma,” he said, comparing the immigration-reform movement to the civil rights movement.
In San Francisco, a large crowd marched through downtown from Senator Feinstein’s office to the Federal Building and courthouse for a rally. “The path to citizenship should not be a 10 or 15 year path!” declared one organizer. Speakers included the city Board of Supervisor’s John Avalos.
Several hundred people also gathered outside of the Los Angeles and San Diego offices of US Senator Dianne Feinstein. San Diego City Council voted unanimously the day before to approve a resolution calling for comprehensive immigration reform and a legal path to citizenship. Marchers held red and orange paper flowers to represent the many people deported every day. “We are here because of our ancestors, our future generations and those who are detained,” said Rev. Deborah Lee of the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights in Northern California.
Other events took place in Oakland, San Jose, Berkeley, and in other cities.
More than 1,500 people rallied in Atlanta. The event was coordinated by the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights with more than 40 other civil and immigrant right groups.
There were several rallies in New York City and the rest of New York state. In Manhattan, supporters gathered outside Senator Charles Schumer’s office with flowers, mariachis, and 700 postcards with pro-reform messages. “The right time to embrace a united nation is now,” said organizer Lucia Gomez. Five hundred members of the group Make the Road also traveled to the rally in Washington.
In Charlotte, coalition groups including the Latin American Coalition, United 4 the Dream, Familias Unidas, OneNC, and Action NC led a march through downtown. About 1,000 people were in attendance. “We’re trying to stress to the senators and representatives that the reform needs to include something for mixed-status families,” said Armando Bellmas of the Latin American Coalition.
With the congressional immigration bill being introduced just a week after these events, it seems these voices, documented or not, are finally being heard.