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

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More