Monday, April 10, 2006
Oh What Shall We Do With The 12 Million Second Class Non-Citizens? Right Wingers Want To Round Them Up and Put Them In Jail. I Say That's Stupid.
Immigration Advocates Rally Around U.S.
By MARIA NEWMAN
New York Times
Crowds were gathering in cities around the country today to stage rallies for immigrant rights that may draw even more people than those on Sunday, when one march in Dallas drew half a million people.
The rallies, part of what some organizers were calling the National Day of Action for Immigrant Justice, began this morning, with a 9 a.m. demonstration in Atlanta , and continues in more than 100 cities, ending with demonstrations in New York City and Washington.
The numbers such rallies have drawn in the past few weeks have exceeded the expectations of even their organizers, who say immigrants are no longer afraid to speak out about proposed immigration bills in Congress that some of them find unfair to them.
"I think that the incredible turnout in places like Dallas is just reflective of the deeply felt sense in this country that we have a broken immigration system that desperately needs to be fixed," said Eliza Leighton, with Casa of Maryland, an immigrant advocacy group that is one of the organizers of the Washington rally.
"It needs to be fixed in such a way that the millions of immigrants who are in this country now and are strong contributing members of our society and our economy have a clear path toward citizenship and one that unites families and keeps our country strong," she said.
In Atlanta, a sea of demonstrators, most of them dressed in the white T-shirts that have become emblematic of the immigrant rights marches, moved along a two-mile route, with marchers carrying signs about their rights and the competing bills in Congress. Most of the marchers carried American flags, as the word has gone out to demonstrators over the last few weeks over the Internet and flyers that they needed to show more willingness to assimilate, although some carried flags from their home countries of Mexico, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Before the march began, police had said they expected it to draw a crowd of 40,000. Afterward, organizers said they believed the size of the crowd might have reached 80,000.
Most of the participants had taken the day off work to attend the demonstration, leaving chores unattended that they said many people, including some who want undocumented immigrants to be kept out, take for granted. There were house painters walking on the metal stilts they use for their work; there were domestic workers who clean houses or care for children in private homes; there were construction workers and their children.
"We are in a situation that Rosa Parks was in several years ago: enough is enough," said Fabian Rodriguez, 38, who came here from Mexico and now lives in the Atlanta suburb of Norcross and works as a landscaper. "I want things to work out in our favor, or we go back to our country. But we can't keep living the way it is now." They were supporting immigrant rights nationally and protesting state legislation awaiting Gov. Sonny Perdue's signature that would require adults seeking many state-administered benefits to prove they are in the country legally.
There were many signs here that marchers were aware of the South's history as the cradle of the black civil rights movement. At the beginning of the march, demonstrators held a banner that spanned the width of their procession that read, "We have a dream too."
Someone else carried a sign that said, "I eat grits. You eat tacos," a message meant to convey how integral immigrants have become to Atlanta's culture and economy.
Other rallies were planned today in large cities with sizeable immigrant populations like Houston, Chicago and Los Angeles, which was the site of one of the earliest rallies last month, when students walked out of schools and crowded into downtown in a reaction that surprised many people. Rallies were also planned today in much smaller cities or those where immigrants have not had as high a profile, like Madison, Wis., Omaha and Belle Glade, Fla.
On Sunday, hundreds of thousands marched in downtown Dallas, San Diego, Miami, Birmingham, Ala., and Boise, Idaho.
Thousands more gathered in Salem, Ore., and other cities in peaceful, forceful displays of support.
They flew banners calling for immigration reform and demanded citizenship and a share of the American dream for millions of illegal immigrants who have long lived in the shadows of the American dream. They have made their way past a gantlet of closed borders, seen their families broken apart and subjected themselves to the greed of human smugglers and low-paying jobs that most other Americans will not take.
At the rallies, immigrants and their supporters were chanting and waving placards and American flags.
"It's a good feeling that we are finally standing up for ourselves," Robert Martinez said at the rally in Dallas.
Most wore white shirts to symbolize peace. Many carried American flags or the flags of Mexico and other countries of Central and South America and Asia. At the rally in Dallas, "God Bless America" and "This Land Is Your Land" blared on loudspeakers, as well as the music of Mexico, as marchers chanted "Sí, se puede" ("Yes, we can") and "U.S.A., all the way."
"We never anticipated it getting this big," said Lt. Rick Watson, a spokesman for the Dallas police. "The estimates were anywhere from 20,000 to 200,000, and they kept coming and coming." Many businesses in Dallas closed for the day, some churches held services early to accommodate marchers, and the Dallas Symphony canceled an afternoon performance.
The rallies are coming at a time when Congress — and indeed, the nation — seems torn about what to do about the burgeoning numbers of immigrants who are coming into the country every year.
A poll released today by The Washington Post and ABC television showed that 75 percent of Americans believe United States authorities are not doing enough to stop illegal immigration.
In Congress, an effort to enact the most sweeping immigration changes in two decades was derailed on Friday by feuding over amendments and other issues.
This came after a bipartisan Senate compromise last week that Democrats and Republicans hailed as a breakthrough. The Senate bill would open doors to citizenship for most illegal immigrants if they paid fines and learned English. It would also create a guest worker program for 325,000 people a year to meet the needs of business, and would tighten border security to satisfy conservatives.
But the agreement fell apart just before Congress went off on a two week break, casting its future in doubt. Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, pledged in an interview on "Fox News Sunday" to have the measure ready for debate when Congress resumes.
In Atlanta, some of the demonstrators took note of Congress's failure to come to an agreement before members left on vaction.
A woman hoisted a sign that said, "Congress, go back to work."
"I feel very disappointed because they're supposed to work for the people," said Georgina Rodriguez, 33, a domestic worker from Mexico. "Instead of solving this problem of 12 million immigrants, they've gone on vacation."
Reporting for this article was contributed by Robert D. McFadden from New York, Brenda Goodman from Atlanta andLaura Griffin from Dallas.