Many immigrants rallied all across the U.S. today in anticipation of the immigration bill to be unveiled by the Senate that is to deal with many immigration issues. At a rally in Washington, D.C. outside the U.S. Capitol, many thousands of immigrants and their supporters who gathered under a hot sun Wednesday to show support for proposals that would grant a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants.
Organizers of the Rally for Citizenship hope they can press Congress to help. The rally featured speeches from immigration rights advocates, labor leaders, faith organizations and members of Congress working on immigration legislation. Many other rallies were organized across the country. Among them:
• In Atlanta, more than 1,000 people gathered at the Georgia Capitol, calling for an end to deportation.
• In San Francisco, demonstrators planned to build an altar with 1,000 paper flowers, symbolizing the number of people deported daily for immigration violations.
Immigration bills have been filed and killed repeatedly since the last major bill, allowing up to 3 million undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens, became law in 1986. But organizers of Wednesday’s rally in Washington say the political stars are finally aligned for another one.
Still, nothing is simple when it comes to immigration legislation. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a member of the bipartisan Gang of Eight trying to develop a comprehensive bill, was supposed to brief his GOP colleagues on the specifics of their plan Wednesday. But Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said they ran out of time due to unrelated issues and couldn’t do their briefing.
The group has been planning to file the bill by early next week.
The halting progress inside the Capitol did little to quell the enthusiasm outside. Rhythmic chants of “Si, se puede!” (loosely, “yes, we can!”) rang over the lawn. A popular sign was “Ciudadania para 11 million.”
But it was the Latino vote that spurred the political drive for change. Republicans struggled to garner Hispanic votes in 2012, leading longtime supporters of an immigration deal, such as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and newcomers to the national stage such as Rubio to call on the GOP to better serve the fast-growing electorate by exploring a broad immigration deal.
Now, bipartisan groups in the House and Senate are putting the finishing touches on their versions of immigration bills that would grant a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, tighten border security, require U.S. business owners to check the immigration status of new employees, and significantly alter the way the country distributes visas.
While sharp disagreements remain over the details of the proposals, President Obama has also supported a sweeping bill and has told Congress he would file his own bill if lawmakers don’t act soon.
Not everyone in Washington sees the need for haste.
Some Republican senators, including Rubio, have called for a slow legislative process so members of the Senate get ample time to weigh the multiple, complicated components of the bill.
Roy Beck, president of the anti-amnesty group NumbersUSA, said a bipartisan task force of senators known as the Gang of Eight should be in no hurry to put forward an immigration proposal that could result in millions of foreign workers looking for work in the U.S.
“There ought to be a rally for the 20 million Americans who can’t find a full-time job,” Beck said. “If the Gang of Eight could look out on the (Washington) Mall and see all those Americans shut out of the job market, would they really make their highest priority a bill to immediately give work permits to 7 million illegal-alien workers while increasing visas for new foreign labor?”
On the Capitol’s west lawn, however, Juan Garcia did not agree.
“We work, pay taxes, contribute to the American economy,” said Garcia, 61, an immigration activist in Providence, R.I. “Now is the time. Stop all discrimination and injustice with the immigration system now. Stop breaking families. Unite families. Give power to working immigrants.” The anticipation of what will come from the immigration bill has many people anxiously waiting to see how Congress will finally address these issues.