Not quite content with the progress that Congress has already made this year in tackling “common sense immigration reforms,” a group of progressive civic associations, including the NAACP, SEIU and Asian American Justice Center, announced this morning that they will hold a rally in Washington, D.C. in April to demand that Congress and President Barack Obama create a legal pathway to citizenship by year’s end.
The rally will take place on the West Lawn of the White House on April 10 and will feature leaders from various labor, community & business leaders fighting to make this issue the ‘grassroots movement of 2013.’
“This is the year to pass comprehensive reform,” NAACP President Ben Jealous said during a press conference at the National Press Club this morning announcing the rally. He also added that the “country [right now] has the greatest level of consensus on the issue that we have ever seen.”
Immigration reform has been a dominant issue in Washington over the past few weeks. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa presented a proposal for comprehensive immigration reform during a speech at the National Press Club earlier this month. Just this past weekend a bipartisan group of Senators, including Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida and John McCain of Arizona, reached a deal that would provide a pathway to legal citizenship for illegal immigrants currently in the United States that will essentially give them amnesty. President Obama plans to announce his own plan for immigration reform during a speech in Las Vegas tomorrow.
“For the first time ever there is more political risk in opposing immigration reform than supporting it,” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said at a press conference about the Senate deal earlier this afternoon. The Senate’s plan focuses on increased border security enforcement a guest worker program complete with employer verification checks in addition to a pathway for legal citizenship for illegal aliens already in the United States.
Public opinion on the issue has also shifted in recent months toward support of a pathway to citizenship. A Fox News poll released earlier today found that two in three Americans support a pathway to citizenship with conditions.
While the leaders at this morning’s press conference applauded Washington for pursuing comprehensive immigration reform this year, they all agree that the lawmakers aren’t going far enough. They maintain that the reforms cannot be ‘piecemeal,’ and must include some type of pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants already in the country. They also call on Congress and President Obama to include in their plan protections for LGBT immigrants and a stronger push to keep families together in the United States.
Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center, noted during the conference that nearly half of the 4.3 million people waiting to join their families in the United States, 2 million, of them are Asian. Veronica Saravia, an 18-year old youth leader at CASA de Maryland, and her 10-year old sister Diana discussed their family’s struggle to stay together in the United States, as Diana was born in the U.S. but Veronica and her parents were not.
“I will never forget my family because keeping families together is important,” Veronica remarked.
“Families do better when they are united,” added Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK.
The coalition’s leader, SEIU President Mary Kay Henry, noted that the fact that they can push for immigration reform this year is a “testament to the power of an increasingly diverse electorate,” adding that communities today no longer stand for our current outdated immigration code.