Thousands of people flooded the National Mall on Wednesday to call on Congress for commonsense immigration reform that includes a roadmap to earned citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.
Coupled with a day of lobbying on Capitol Hill and sibling rallies across the country, Wednesday’s was one of the biggest immigration rallies to date. Sponsored by the Service Employee International Union, Casa de Maryland, the NAACP, and more, the rally began with an interfaith prayer service and featured the voices of faith leaders, including UMC Bishop of Los Angeles Minerva Carcaño, Director of Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism Rabbi David Saperstein, Director Hispanic Diocese of Arlington Padre Jose Eugenio Hoyos, and Islamic Center of Maryland Imam Jamil Dasti.
The diverse crowd, many of whom had bussed in from across the country, stood through the unusually sweltering April heat to raise chants, noisemakers, and cheers in a show of unified solidarity for immigration reform. Flags dotted the Capitol lawn, American flags mixing with the flags of Peru, Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil, and other countries to form a visual tapestry of American diversity.
And people of faith turned up in force. “I’m here out of a real passion for immigration reform,” said Sister Marge Clark from NETWORK, a Catholic Social Justice lobby. “The immigration system is extremely broken … this is one area of injustice.”
Immigration reform has been featured prominently in legislation discussions and media headlines this year. President Barack Obama, who vowed in January to produce his own plan if Congress was unable to produce a proposal, and has since delivered a framework, has also suggested the “biggest failure” of his first term was not passing an comprehensive immigration overhaul. But Congress has been divided on the issue for months.
The rally preceded news on Thursday with a more detailed plan of the bipartisan Senate group of eight’s immigration plan, which includes a roadmap to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. How the details pan out will soon be seen as legislation is due for release early next week.
See our slideshow and interviews with persons of faith attending the rally, below.
Catherine Woodiwiss is Associate Web Editor for Sojourners.