News / USA

Thousands Rally for US Immigration Reform

Tens of Thousands Rally for Immigration Reformi
X
April 11, 2013 7:23 PM
Tens of thousands crowded the U.S. Capitol grounds Wednesday, urging Congress to pass immigration reform this year. Advocates want a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has the story.

Tens of thousands crowded the U.S. Capitol grounds Wednesday, urging Congress to pass immigration reform this year. Advocates want a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has the story.

Thousands of people rallied outside the U.S. Capitol Wednesday, pushing Congress to help legalize the millions of undocumented foreigners living in the country, while lawmakers inside reportedly neared a consensus on an immigration reform bill.
 
Concerned U.S. citizens, undocumented immigrants and their children spent hours traveling across the country on hundreds of buses for the “All in for Citizenship” rally. Under a sweltering sun, they chanted “Now is the time,” while waving American flags and holding signs demanding equal rights for equal work.

A crowd fills the lawn on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. during the "Rally for Citizenship," where immigrants and their supporters rallied for immigration reform, April 10, 2013. (Alison Klein for VOA)A crowd fills the lawn on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. during the "Rally for Citizenship," where immigrants and their supporters rallied for immigration reform, April 10, 2013. (Alison Klein for VOA)
x
A crowd fills the lawn on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. during the "Rally for Citizenship," where immigrants and their supporters rallied for immigration reform, April 10, 2013. (Alison Klein for VOA)
A crowd fills the lawn on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. during the "Rally for Citizenship," where immigrants and their supporters rallied for immigration reform, April 10, 2013. (Alison Klein for VOA)
The decades-long push to overhaul the U.S. immigration system appears closer than it’s ever been to seeing actual success in Congress. Despite that, the legislative process could still be thwarted by differences of opinion on how to secure the borders while also addressing the undocumented population. 

The bipartisan group of eight senators working on a reform bill has largely agreed on its shape, The New York Times reported Wednesday. Several people familiar with the legislation told the newspaper the bill would give $3 billion to the Department of Homeland Security to implement a five-year plan to boost border security. No undocumented immigrants could begin the legalization process until the plan is in place, the sources said.

It is seen as a compromise between Republican lawmakers focused on tightening the borders and Democrats dedicated to a pathway to citizenship. Both political parties, courting the powerful Hispanic vote, are pushing for a deal to happen before the next round of elections.
 
The activists outside the Capitol building said they’re tired of waiting. Hispanics made up most of the crowd, but Asians, Arabs, Africans and countless others joined in the chants for change - sharing stories, food and water bottles.

Tough times

Bangladesh-born Farzana Morshed, a U.S. citizen and community organizer, traveled to Washington from New York out of respect for the Bangladeshis she’s seen deported from the United States.

Bangladeshi-born Farzana Morshed of the Queens Community House sits in the shade on the edge of the "All in for Citizenship" rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (Photo by Kate Woodsome)Bangladeshi-born Farzana Morshed of the Queens Community House sits in the shade on the edge of the "All in for Citizenship" rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (Photo by Kate Woodsome)
x
Bangladeshi-born Farzana Morshed of the Queens Community House sits in the shade on the edge of the "All in for Citizenship" rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (Photo by Kate Woodsome)
Bangladeshi-born Farzana Morshed of the Queens Community House sits in the shade on the edge of the "All in for Citizenship" rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, Wednesday, April 10, 2013. (Photo by Kate Woodsome)
“When I read the newspaper, I see a lot of people who are being deported. They’re scared all the time. It hurts me,” she said, adding that the people able to stay in the U.S. often face abuses at work because they have no rights.

Sigifredo Pizaña’s family has experienced both plights – deportation and exploitation. The 21-year-old was brought to the U.S. from Mexico a decade ago. He said his parents were seeking a better life. It didn’t work out.

“My dad was deported two years ago. My older brother was deported last year. My mom went back to Mexico. I’m here by myself,” he said. “I wasn’t prepared for this. I had to drop out of college.”

Pizaña, a resident of Grand Rapids, Michigan, qualified for deferred action, an Obama administration initiative that postpones deportation for undocumented immigrants who are younger than 30, and who and came to the U.S. before they were 16. Under the program Pizaña can get a driver’s license and a work permit. He’s relieved.

“Before, I had a job working at a horse farm, seven days a week. I had to walk two hours to get there,” he said, adding that he wants to pay taxes and get the same benefits as full-fledged citizens.

Counter-protests

The story of Pizaña’s family being forced out of the U.S. is appealing to opponents of the pro-reform movement. 
Thomas Bowie of Maryland and Jim MacDonald, a member of the New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement group, are opposed to "anything like amnesty." (Photo by Kate Woodsome)Thomas Bowie of Maryland and Jim MacDonald, a member of the New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement group, are opposed to "anything like amnesty." (Photo by Kate Woodsome)
x
Thomas Bowie of Maryland and Jim MacDonald, a member of the New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement group, are opposed to "anything like amnesty." (Photo by Kate Woodsome)
Thomas Bowie of Maryland and Jim MacDonald, a member of the New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement group, are opposed to "anything like amnesty." (Photo by Kate Woodsome)

Jim MacDonald of the New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement group said he’s “seething” over the issue of unauthorized immigrants.

“I think they should go back to their own country. They can be sent back in as humane a way as possible, but the first thing is they should be sent back,” he said.

MacDonald stood across from the pro-immigration rally holding a sign that said, “Secure Our Borders.” Beside him, Thomas Bowie of Maryland clung to a poster that said, “No Amnesty for Illegals.” He lamented that the pro-reform group “understands practical politics better than most Americans.”

“If we had the percentage of Americans who were against granting anything like amnesty come out that our opponents have had come out, Congress would sit up and take notice,” he said. “But at the moment, they’re just noticing our opponents.”

It wasn’t always that way. Congress rejected another comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007 that would have addressed unauthorized immigrants. It failed after a successful push by the conservative movement. 

Times have changed, though. The Hispanic vote punished conservatives in last year’s elections, and the pro-reform movement is more organized than ever before.

Rights are rights

Labor unions have worked for months organizing the busloads of people who rallied at the Capitol. Lena Bembery, a representative of the United Auto Workers union from Detroit, Michigan, said she came to Washington because “workers’ rights and immigration rights are inseparable.”
 
“When workers are treated impeccable in terms of immigrant rights, then it translates to all the struggles we’ve had and fights for equality and justice for working people, for people of color, for women,” she said.
 
Bembery, who is not an immigrant, said she’s ecstatic that many members of the movement are so young.
 
“When young people take on that battle, it shifts it to a place where it becomes a way that we live, and not a way that we imagine,” she said.
 
A 20-year-old Maryland resident born in Guatemala said he’s grateful Bembery and others like her are standing behind undocumented immigrants like him.
 
“We feel like we’re not alone over here. We’re all fighting for the same cause.  So let’s hope it works,” he said.
 
Speaking behind mirrored sunglasses, he asked to remain anonymous because he said he doesn’t quite feel safe telling the world he’s undocumented.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid