Thousands march for immigration reform

Letitia James lead off the march as hundreds from New York migrant communities carrying signs voicing the needs for immigration reform, marched across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Photo by Tequila Minsky

A nationwide push to jumpstart immigration reform drew more than 100,000 participants across the country to demonstrate this weekend.

Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio along with other elected officials, grassroots community activists, human rights workers, and union representatives spoke to two thousand demonstrators from New York area migrant communities at Saturday’s rally at Cadman Plaza.

“Immigration reform is one of the most pressing and complex issues now facing the Congress. Whether we get immigration right, and whether we get it done soon, will determine in major ways what type of society, economy, and future we will have,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler.

“Even a government shutdown isn’t powerful enough to end the movement for comprehensive, sensible immigration reform. But it’s going to take all of us working together to get the reform we want — and 11 million immigrants deserve,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of New York Civil Liberties Union. Demonstrations took place in 150 cities in 40 states.

The efforts for immigration reform, supporting a system that honors family, bolsters the economy, serves the public interest, and provides a path to citizenship for undocumented Americans, have been fought for well over a decade.

Senator Teddy Kennedy worked on three “comprehensive immigration” acts from 2005-2007, all of which failed to be pass in Congress.

In June, the Senate passed, with overwhelming support, a bipartisan immigration reform bill. The public increasingly supports reform with a path to citizenship, and is more fed up than ever with the partisanship that is holding this country in a vise.

A House bill has been introduced that largely mirrors the Senate bill but without the harsh and unnecessary border surge that was added to the Senate bill at the eleventh hour. However, House leaders are reverting to inaction, division, and obstruction.

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition that organized the rally and coordinator of “New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform” state-wide campaign, spoke of House of Representative Speaker Boehner’s obstructionism in refusing to bring the bill to the vote. He cautioned, “Either the House leadership stops with its posturing and theatrics, or they’ll be blown aside by the gale force of 15 million immigrant voters—not to mention native-born voters, too—in 2014.”

Many of the afternoon’s speakers reiterated how hard working immigrants help build the country, that families continue to be separated and hurt, and that the system is broken.

Attention (and pressure) needs to be kept on the issue Brooklyn Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke emphasized, “We must continue to organize in our communities and to insist that our elected officials support immigration reform.”

When the rally finished, demonstrators, chanting for reform, took to the Brooklyn Bridge. They carried signs that read: Migrants of the World Unite, New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform, RESPECT, I am illegal (crossed-out) human being, No human being is illegal.

Other signs read: Citizenship is a right not a privilege, DIGNITY, and For Families not Deportation. One petite woman carried a hand written sign reading: I haven’t seen my 3 kids in 18 years.

The mobilization committee for New York’s March for Immigrant Dignity and Respect consists of 13 labor unions and grassroots service organizations representing Hispanic, African, Asian, Arab-American and Black communities who organized the rally and marched along with “Dreamers” and other New Yorkers supporting immigration reform.

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