Yesterday, an estimated 200,000 from at least 35 states gathered in Washington, D.C. to raise their voices for comprehensive immigration reform—reform President Obama promised to address within his first year in office. The National Mall and surrounding streets were full of supporters carrying signs with messages such as “Family Unity,” “Reform Not Raids,” “Friends Keep Their Promises” and “$1.5 Trillion to the U.S. Economy.” Representing a broad coalition of supporters, the immigration rally came on the heels of a series of White House meetings on the issue as well as Sens. Schumer and Graham’s rough legislative blueprint of an reform bill expected later this year.
The broad coalition of immigration supporters included a slew of advocates, labor unions, faith and religious groups, as well as congressional members and African American leaders such as Ben Jealous, executive director of the NAACP, Rev. Jesse Jackson, executive director of the Rainbow PUSH coalition and Marc Morial, executive director of the National Urban League.
Congressional members—including Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Sen. Robert Menedez (D- NJ), Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) , Rep. Michael Honda (D-CA), Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Rep. Yvette Clark (D-NY), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AR), Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA)—were on hand to hold President Obama’s feet to the fire and demonstrate the urgency of fixing our broken immigration system.
We’ve been patient long enough. We’ve listened quietly. We’ve asked politely. We’ve turned the other cheek so many times our heads are spinning. It’s time to let immigrants come out of the shadows into the light and for America to embrace them and protect them.
Fortunately, the White House is starting to listen. Today, several religious leaders met with Obama administration officials to discuss immigration reform from a faith-based perspective. At the rally yesterday, President Obama released a pre-recorded message reconfirming his pledge to immigration reform this year:
I pledge to everything in my power to forger a bipartisan consensus this year on this important issue. You know as well as I do that this won’t be easy and it won’t happen over night. But if we work together—across ethnic, state and party lines—we can build a future worthy of our history as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.
With the passage of the monumental health care bill late last night, supporters are hoping the White House now has the political momentum to raise the banner for immigration reform and tackle the issue this year.
According to Angela Kelly at the Center for American Progress:
We are trying to send a strong message that when health care is past us, this is the issue that needs to be up at bat. We’ve been in the bullpen for a long time, and now we want to show the strength of the team and the power of the issue.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) assured supporters last week that he is committed to bringing Senators Schumer and Graham’s bipartisan immigration bill to the floor when the bill is ready.
Video by White House.