WASHINGTON — Advocates and immigrants from Arizona were among thousands who came to Washington on Wednesday to rally at the Capitol in support of comprehensive immigration reform.
The rally by lawmakers, unions, religious groups and immigrants comes as House and Senate members work on immigration reform bills that are expected to call for secure borders in exchange for giving those here illegally a chance to work toward legal residence.
Those measures are expected to be unveiled this month.
“We’re still here, we’re not going anywhere, we’re going to continue to fight … and let our legislators know that the time is now,” said Phoenix resident Tony Navarrete, operations manager with Promise Arizona. He was one of several members of the group at the rally.
Demonstrators called for President Barack Obama to uphold his promise of immigration reform, using his 2008 campaign motto, “Yes we can” in chants. Some wore shirts reading “Obama, what happened to immigration reform?” as protesters chanted, “What time is it? The time is now!” for reform.
This rally comes on the seventh anniversary of a day of massive immigration protests, when reform supporters came out in more than 70 cities across the country. But the 2006 immigration reform deal they were supporting then ultimately died in the House.
It would be fine with Bob Fireovid if the current proposals met the same fate.
The Maryland resident was part of a small group of people protesting against immigration reform Wednesday, holding signs reading, “No Path to Citizenship, No Amnesty” and “Citizenship is not a Reward for Illegal Aliens.”
Several times as immigration-reform supporters passed by, the two groups got into shouting matches. The reform opponents said immigrants who are in the country illegally should be deported, while supporters countered that the United States is a country of immigrants.
Fireovid said current immigration laws need to be enforced. He noted that the promise of increased security was part of a 1986 immigration bill that was supposed to fix the country’s immigration problems, but did not.
“The law’s not being enforced, and I don’t trust that it’s going to be enforced after another amnesty,” Fireovid said of current proposals.
Fireovid, who adopted his son from Guatemala 17 years ago, insists that his position is not race driven.
“We’re not xenophobes, we just want the law to be enforced, that’s all,” he said.
Many at the rally focused on the importance of keeping families together and said that should be kept in mind during reform talks.
Navarrete said any bill needs to keep family unification at the forefront, because families are being hit hardest by current policies.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Tucson, echoed that, saying there are 4.5 million kids who are United States citizens who have had one of their parents deported.
“There’s a consequence to this and we want to put a human face on it, and I think the rally does that,” Grijalva said.
He said these rallies are part of the reason immigration reform has surged to the top of the to-do list in Washington.
“I think members of Congress need to see that this is not just data,” Grijalva said. “These are human faces, these are families.”
Maria Castro, treasurer for the Arizona Dream Act Coalition and a freshman at Arizona State University, said the rally was inspiring and that immigration reform is definitely within reach.
There is still a long way to go, she said, but she is cautiously optimistic.
“It’s very exciting, but it’s also very nerve-wracking because there’s a lot of speculation, and the devil’s in the details,” Castro said. “So we don’t want to get our hopes way too high up, but we also don’t want to lose hope.”