MORE than 4,000 demonstrators joined forces for a peaceful “Mega March” on May 1 to commemorate International Workers’ Day and demand action from Congress on immigration reform.
The event, organized by CASA — an immigration advocacy organization with operating branches in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia — and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU 32BJ), an economic and racial justice labour union, also garnered support from other community serving organizations, such as NAKASEC, the Haitian Bridge Alliance.
Members convened at Freedom Plaza in Northwest DC before marching towards East Seaton Park, just short of reaching the US Capitol.
The indefatigable immigration activists called for a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children— and Temporary Protection Status (TPS) holders.
In addition, advocates are emphasizing the critical role immigrant workers have played in the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. Granting citizenship for immigrants serving in essential sectors has been added to the list of demands.
To Eduardo Zeyala, CASA regional lead organizer for Virginia, the demonstration was a success.
He told Redaction Report: “Thousands of immigrants, activists and allies… [showed up to] demand justice for [the immigrant communities] from the [Biden] administration and Congress.
“Mobilizing and showing community power in the streets will not only move these issues forward, but will help a broken and divided society to become united [in the] fight against rules and ideologies that continue to oppress minorities.”
Another protest — also organized by CASA — filled the streets of Washington, DC on May 12. Several hundred demonstrators gathered at the Republican National Committee Headquarters and made their way to the U.S. Senate Office building. After refusing to follow police orders, forty demonstrators were arrested for civil disobedience.
Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen, who found himself among the 40 detainees said: “Civil disobedience has always been a critical lever for change. I’m proud to join my brothers, sisters and siblings from CASA to demand action from Congress. Everyone who works hard and plays by the rules should have an opportunity to attain citizenship.
“No human being is illegal.”
Both pro-immigration rallies come months after the House passed the American Dream and Promise Act by a vote of 228-197.
The bill would provide a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and TPS holders, but has yet to be brought to the Senate floor. It is unclear if the effort would garner enough support in the Senate to pass: at least 10 Republicans would have to vote in favour of the Act.
Due to the surge in unaccompanied children arriving at the southern border in recent months, Republican leaders have voiced disapproval for moving the bill forward unless the situation at the border is addressed first.
The rise in migration comes after the devastating impact of the global pandemic coupled with the damage from hurricanes Iota and Eta that ravaged the northern triangle in late 2020.
Although many centrist Democrats have mentioned their preference for bipartisan legislation on the issue, some are exploring the unilateral options at their disposal. More specifically, top Democratic leaders are eyeing budget reconciliation as a possible leeway for immigration overhaul.
Reconciliation — a congressional procedure that circumvents a Senate filibuster — is used to pass legislation with a simple majority, so long as it is approved of resulting in direct budgetary impacts. Democrats already passed the annual budget resolution earlier this year, in which the reconciliation maneuver was used to include the COVID-19 rescue package.
However, parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough recently gave the greenlight for at least one budget modification per fiscal year, meaning the process could potentially be used to push through Biden’s agenda.
As talks about the issue develop on Capitol Hill, activists and allies continue to amplify the voices of hard-working immigrant families and maintain pressure on lawmakers to act on much-awaited immigration relief.
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