Protesters, speakers march through Capitol
An immigration rally in Washington, D.C. today drew thousands of people including high profile speakers such as Ted Kennedy, NAACP president Bruce Gordon and NCIC president Jaime Contreras, all of whom converged to urge Congress to take immediate and comprehensive action for immigration reform.
The rally began at 4 p.m. today on the National Mall outside the capital building, and was sponsored by the National Capital Immigration Coalition (NCIC), along with the We Are America Alliance (WAAA). Kennedy spoke at the beginning of the program, and was followed by other key note speakers like Contreras and Gordon, among others. The speeches continued for several hours in both Spanish and English with translations, and the rally concluded with a march around the capital.
The speakers focused mainly on the importance of passing a comprehensive immigration policy, one that would represent the millions of immigrants living in America. The rally was especially significant in light of the upcoming November elections. Kennedy, especially, insinuated that if Congress is unwilling to address the issue of immigration in fairness, than it is time to elect a new Congress. Contreras mentioned what he described as the overwhelming number of legal immigrants who declined to vote in the last election, avowing that it could and would not happen again.
Contreras, an immigrant from El Salvador, described his first-hand experience with overcoming immigration obstacles. "We have a big mountain to climb, we know it will not be easy," he said. Though Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist admitted recently that closure on the immigration issue before the election was, "next to impossible," NCIC and WAAA hoped to remind Congress of the immigration issue, and the power in numbers that the immigrant movement has at it's disposal, according to Contreras.
Contreras continued on to mention America's huge demand for immigrant labor and the draw this has for poor emigrants, despite the fact that restrictive laws do not allow them to enter the country legally. Kennedy agreed, stating that he was there today to defend the families and the future of the United States, a country that was founded by and for immigrants. "We will pass an immigration bill in Congress that is worthy of America," Kennedy said.
The rally was well attended and the crowd was enthusiastic. The speakers were greeted with cheers and chants of "si se peude," ("yes we can") and "Bush escucha estamos en la lucha" ("Bush, listen to us, we are in the struggle. "). The crowd waved signs bearing slogans like, "We are America," "Immigrant values are family values" and "There is a crack in the liberty system."
One protester commented that he was "here because we are fighting for our rights as Americans." Though he did not attend the larger protest earlier this year, as an immigrant himself, he has a personal interest in the issue. A neighboring protestor agreed. He did attend last spring's protest, and commented that by holding this second protest they were proving their unwavering dedication to the cause. "We are telling Congress that on this we will not give up. We are Americans too, just like them. We are fighting for our rights to be Americans," he said.
Courtney Burtraw. Courtney Burtraw is an incoming junior who is excited to be joining the Silver Chips Online staff. Outside of school, she enjoys playing soccer, reading, watching movies, hanging out with friends, and sometimes running track and cross-country. She is in love with Johnny Depp, but … More »