More than 200,000 people gathered on the National Mall today to participate in March for America, a rally advocating comprehensive immigration reform.
Organized by Reform Immigration for America, the rally brought together groups from around the country — including Service Employees International Union, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Democracia Ahora and the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles — to send a message to lawmakers: “The time for immigration reform is now.”
President Obama delivered a message from the big screens in the crowd in which he assured the demonstrators of his commitment to passing comprehensive immigration reform.
Several lawmakers also spoke at the event, including Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), and several marchers had signs that read, “Luis Gutierrez for President.” Gutierrez, a leading advocate of immigration reform in the House, said, “If America has a problem it can’t solve, it blames immigrants. We’ve been patient long enough. … I know how you can get heard in the Capitol. You raise your voice. Our day is coming.”
Reps. Yvette Clark (D-N.Y.), Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Michael Honda (D-Calif.) — as well the only Latino in the Senate, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — were among the other lawmakers who spoke at the rally. “It’s time to put the politics of fear aside,” said Menendez.
Although a large portion of the rally was geared toward the Spanish-speaking community (over half of the speakers, in fact, spoke Spanish during their speeches), there were organizations and speakers representing Asians and Africans, and many other minority groups participated in the event to show their support.
“I hope the elected officials will consider comprehensive immigration reform for those who are willing to work and stop deportations,” said Matu Ahmed, an immigrant from Ghana, who came to the rally from New York City with a group of African community members. “You can’t take children from families. This is the time for reform for those children.”
For Ahmed and many others at the rally, immigration reform is a civil rights issue. Ahmed believes the White House should be “humane” and consider families when proposing reform. “We are not criminals. We want to contribute to the American dream. We want to be part of the U.S.”
Today’s events also included a religious service before the main program with representatives of several religious organizations and a march to RFK Stadium after the program.