Over 200,000 people marched in Washington DC last March 21 to urge Congress and the President to overhaul America’s broken immigration system.
The marchers who traveled from around the country were joined by members of the labor and business sectors, faith and community leaders and civil rights advocates.
Although the rally was overshadowed by the health care debate held in the halls of Congress, it was attended by several lawmakers including Senator Robert Menendez and Representatives Luis Gutierrez, Michael Honda, Nydia Velasquez, Yvette Clark, Joe Crowley, Xavier Becerra, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Raul Grijalva and Judy Chu.
Their message was loud and clear. America needs an immigration policy now that would legalize the 11 million undocumented immigrants, reduce if not eliminate the huge backlogs in family and employment immigration, provide much needed temporary workers to help grow our economy, and restore the fundamental principles of fairness and due process while protecting our national security.
Representative Luis Gutierrez, the principal sponsor of the comprehensive immigration bill now pending in the House told the crowd, “We have waited too long. We have been patient long enough. It is time to let the immigrants come out of the shadows.”
Notable was the presence of leaders from organizations that had not been fully supportive of immigration reform such as some African American groups, labor organizations and gay and lesbian groups.
Rev. Jesse Jackson and NAACP President Benjamin Jealous and National Urban League President Marc Morial expressed the support of their groups. Labor leaders such as SEIU International President Andy Stern and religious leaders such as Cardinal Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles and Rev. Sam Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference also spoke to underscore the urgent need for reforms.
The Filipino American community was represented in great numbers. Among the leaders were Ernie Gange of the Fil-Am Reform Immigration for America Task Force and Ben de Guzman, Jelly Carandang and Jerry Clarito of NAFFAA.
President Obama who had promised immigration reforms during his election campaign addressed the gathering via a videotaped message, “I have always pledged to be your partner as we work to fix our immigration system, and that’s a commitment that I reaffirm today,” he said.
The President acknowledged that passing immigration reform this year would not be easy but he said that if we “work together across ethnic, state and party lines” it could happen.
The organizers of the March 21 rally said that more gatherings are being planned to continue raising public awareness on the issue. Indeed sustained action is needed to push Congress to act. We must play an active role because we need immigration reform now.