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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs