News / USA

US Capital Prepares for Major Immigration Rally

Denise Villagomez, a union member, writes on a sign as she and other volunteers prepare for Wednesday's immigration reform rally at the Service Employees International Union, which is co-organizing the event, in Washington, April 9, 2013.
Denise Villagomez, a union member, writes on a sign as she and other volunteers prepare for Wednesday's immigration reform rally at the Service Employees International Union, which is co-organizing the event, in Washington, April 9, 2013.
Jaime Contreras hasn’t eaten much lately. He’s been too busy preparing for Wednesday’s “All in for Citizenship” rally expected to draw tens of thousands of immigration activists to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Contreras, vice president of SEIU 32BJ, the local chapter of the powerful Service Employees International Union, says the rally is a call to action for Congress to stop treating the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. like second class citizens.

“We’re going to have tens of thousands of people in front of the nation’s capital, sending a message, reminding our elected leaders that last November, our community spoke loud and clear that we voted and we voted for immigration reform,” he said.

The Hispanic community was a massive force in the 2012 elections, an increasingly powerful electorate whose demands for immigration reform have become difficult for lawmakers to ignore.

It’s not the first time activists have rallied for an overhaul of the U.S. immigration system. Similar marches took place in 2006, only to have a reform bill collapse in the Senate in 2007.

This time is different, according to Contreras.

“Republicans have come to a realization that the immigrant community is growing, that it’s vibrant, a hard working community that contributes to the country just like everybody else,” he said. “And for the first time, we have Republicans and Democrats trying to figure out who’s taking the credit.”

Chief among the movement’s demands is a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants and an end to the deportations that have divided hundreds of thousands of families in recent years. They’re issues that stir strong emotions on both sides, and counter-protests are planned for Wednesday.

Jim McDonald, a resident of Arlington, Virginia, will be part of the opposition. He identifies himself as an “interested American.”

“I’m an interested American because it’s outrageous that we’ve got people demanding citizenship that aren’t even supposed to be in the country illegally and they’re going to be on Capitol Hill doing it. It's a personal affront to me,” he said.

McDonald plans to carry photos he took at the border between the U.S. state of Arizona and Mexico, a frontier he describes as porous.

Border security is a key point of the Congressional debate over immigration reform. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who is part of the bi-partisan team drafting a reform bill, is pushing for assurances that the border be secured before undocumented immigrants can begin gaining citizenship. The Obama administration says the southwestern border is tighter than it’s ever been.

Among the thousands who will be rallying on Capitol Hill are immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. Their plight has transformed the conversation from strictly a policy issue to a personal dilemma.

Contreras, who gained citizenship in 1996 while serving in the U.S. Navy, understands the dilemma. His parents brought him undocumented to the U.S. in 1988, when a war was raging in their home country, El Salvador.

“They brought me here because they didn’t want me to get killed,” he said. “I think any parent who does that for their kids should not be a criminal. And any kid who comes here at no fault of their own should not be a criminal.”

Still, McDonald and others like him aren’t swayed.

“I don’t think it’s my problem to straighten out what their parents did. The parents should be responsible for what to do with their kids. It’s their problem. It’s not our problem as a nation to resolve that kind of an issue,” he said.

The senators tasked with resolving the issue are expected to present their draft legislation to Congress next week.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid