U.S. immigration activists rally for change

Sun Mar 21, 2010 6:18pm EDT

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* Supporters urge Obama to address immigration system

* Tens of thousands want Congress to pass legislation

By Nancy Waitz

WASHINGTON, March 21 (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the U.S. capital on Sunday to demand immigration reform that defends the rights of foreign workers, but their voices may have been muted by Democrats' push for a historic vote on healthcare.

Carrying signs that said "Justice and Dignity for All U.S. Immigrants" and "We just want to work," the immigration activists filled five blocks of the National Mall. Some protesters wore T-shirts that read, "Our journey as immigrants is a journey for human rights."

New York Democratic Representative Nydia Velazquez said: "Every day without reform is a day that 12 million hard-working immigrants must live in the shadow of fear, and ... a day that a family is torn apart. That is wrong and it is unAmerican."

Velazquez, who chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, called on Congress and the president to reform immigration laws immediately.

Immigration is a sensitive issue in the United States where some 10.8 million illegal immigrants live and work in the shadows and where Hispanics, the largest immigrant group, are a rapidly increasing voting bloc.

Despite Washington's focus on healthcare, some in the ethnically diverse crowd were confident that lawmakers would hear about the rally and take note of their concerns.

"I have my documents, but the majority of the people here do not. It's time for all immigrants to support a just immigration reform. This country really needs it because ... Latino labor produces a lot of money for their country," said a Colombian man who lives in Arlington, Virginia and gave his name as Jairo.


President Barack Obama benefited in 2008 from a huge Hispanic turnout, drawn by his promise to deliver immigration reform allowing millions of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.

Frustrated that Obama has yet to fulfill a pledge to overhaul the nation's immigration system, immigration supporters have warned him to deliver this year or face the consequences in congressional elections in November.

"A lot of these people are here like myself are voters and if they don't do something, then I am voting against that congressman," said Gumecindo Salas, vice president of government relations for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

While Hispanics are seen as unlikely to switch support to Republicans, who have fought immigration reform without a clampdown on illegal immigrants, they could hurt Democrats by failing to turn out at the polls.

On Thursday, Obama embraced a framework for legislation offered by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Charles Schumer. Obama said the plan, which features a new high-tech identification card for U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want a job, "can and should be the basis for moving us forward."

But on Friday, Graham said, "If the healthcare bill goes through this weekend, that will, in my view, pretty much kill any chance of immigration reform passing the Senate this year." He and other Republicans have complained about the tactics used by Democrats to win support for the healthcare bill. (Reporting by Nancy Waitz; additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Donna Smith and Sreya Banerjee)

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Comments (13)
american79 wrote:
America is a country of immigrants. All people who came here made great sacrifices and worked harder than even the citizens and under very difficult circumstances and thus contributed even greater than the citizens for a better future for America and for themselves.
Henceforth recent studies conducted by experts and universities continue to show that legalizing the immigrants, who are not criminals or drug traffickers is in the best interest of our country’s economy and prosperity.
A recent study conducted by Dr. Raúl Hinojosa-Ojeda for the Immigration Policy Center and the Center for American Progress, estimates that immigration reform would add at least $1.5 trillion in cumulative Gross Domestic Product to the U.S. economy over 10 years. Over the first three years alone, the higher personal incomes of new and newly legalized immigrant workers would generate enough consumer spending to support 750,000 to 900,000 jobs in the United States, as well as increased tax revenues of $4.5 billion to $5.4 billion
I thus think that passing of the comprehensive immigration reform immediately is in the best interest of Americans and our country. It will only continue to keep our country prosperous and great.
It appears like many have opined that President Obama needs to lead on the Immigration Reform just as he led on the Health Reform. I think it will make all the difference. Also another favourable factor is that Immigration Reform has more bipartisan support than Health Reform. For example Sen. Mel Martinez’s (R-Fla.) successor, George LeMieux, told POLITICO that he had not been approached about signing onto the Immigration Bill, but that the issue is important and he would be “happy to look” at a proposal
I think the bigger and greater the rally in Washington DC on March 21 the better it will contribute to moving the Immigration Reform very quickly and passing it immediately. “Immigration Reform” could even be a part of the” Jobs Bill” for passing it quickly or else its future looks very bleak

Mar 21, 2010 6:45pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
tiare wrote:
“some 10.8 million illegal immigrants live and work in the shadows and where Hispanics, the largest immigrant group, are a rapidly increasing voting bloc.”
so are the 10.8 illegals part of the Hispanic voting block?? Since Hispanics are a rapidly increasing voting block is it not reasonable to assume they are legal citizens??? ..Are legal Hispanics DEMANDING the illegal Hispanics be granted special privileges of by passings laws, and given “rights” to break laws and get all the benefits that hard working legal immigrants paid dues to get. Life just does not work that way.

Mar 21, 2010 6:55pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
I want universal healthcare and I want these people to go back to their home countries.

We are full. We don’t have enough jobs to go around. It is time to reform immigration, both legal and illegal immigration need reform. But reform may be a hard word, the better word might just be to enforce the laws we already have. They are quite well written, but they are simply not followed.

Lets consider perfectly “legal” immigration. On the books, the laws clearly state that an employer must search for local workers before choosing a legal immigrant for a job. This DOES NOT HAPPEN. In fact, many companies, look to talented foreign labor to bring in legally, just so they can pay lower salaries for highly skilled work.

It’s a bunch of crap, it’s screwing up what otherwise would be great jobs for new college graduates and it’s helping saturate many industries so that the supply of workers outweighs the demands and salaries crash.

Lets start enforcing immigration. Both legal and illegal, and lets get lobbyists out of the picture so that the people can make the decisions that are in our best interest.

Mar 21, 2010 7:14pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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