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 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
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 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
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 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
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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs