WASHINGTON -- Thousands rallied Tuesday on the National Mall chanting “si se puede” -- “yes we can” -- in a bid to re-ignite the debate on immigration reform and push Congress to take action on stalled legislation.
At one point, nearly 200 people also participated in a civil disobedience protest in which some participants were arrested, including Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Min.
Waving American flags and signs that read “Citizenship for 11 million” and “Don’t deport my dad,” the protesters roared their approval for immigration reform advocates speaking from a stage with the Capitol in the background.
“If this rally doesn’t push Congress, the next rally will push Congress,” said Kica Mantos, director of immigrant rights and racial justice at the Center for Community Change, an advocacy group that promotes the rights of low-income people of color. “We’ll do more rallies. We’re going to do more advocacy. We’re going to do whatever it takes within our power to make sure that we have immigration reform.”
The Center for Community Change, CASA in Action, the National Education Association and several other organizations coordinated the six-hour event, which capped off a nationwide series of immigration rallies and protests held over the weekend.
The rally was organized because of a breakdown in the reform effort on Capitol Hill. The Senate passed a comprehensive bill earlier this year offering a long road to legal status for undocumented but law-abiding immigrants. But the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has taken no action.“Immigration is not just an immigrant issue, it’s a worker issue,” said Edison Servino, Latino Caucus chairman of LIUNA, the Laborers’ International Union. “When a group of workers can be exploited, it can be used against all the workers to lower wages. The American worker needs to wake up to the fact that immigration reform is important. It’s time it happens.”
Last Wednesday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats tried to kick-start the debate by introducing legislation that would create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants nationwide.
For many immigrants and advocacy groups, the legislation is long overdue.
“The country is on a shutdown, but we are not shutting down,” said Alma Couverthie, education director at CASA de Maryland, an equal rights advocacy group for Latinos and their families. “Just like the civil rights movement and the women’s right’s movement have sacrificed a lot to change and make this country a better place for everyone, so is the immigration movement.”