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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid