Washington: Thousands of immigrants and activists held a rally at the US Capitol to urge Congress to overhaul the immigration system for over 11 million illegal immigrants, including some 260,000 Indians, living in the shadows. The show of support for comprehensive immigration reforms came on Wednesday even as the so-called Gang of Eight senators, four Democrats and four Republicans, announced they were close to a deal after weeks of negotiations.
Called Citizenship for 11 Million, the rally was backed by community gatherings across the country pressing Congress for comprehensive immigration overhaul this week, said ABC News. Staten Island, New York, New Haven, Connecticut, Charlottesville, Virginia, Boston and several other cities had hosted rallies ahead of the Washington demonstration.
Jessica Ramos, spokeswoman for the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, told ABC News that besides Mexicans, who make up 60 percent of the undocumented immigrants, there was a lot of South Asian as also African and Eastern European participation. The Washington Post, meanwhile, citing Senate aides said the bipartisan legislation should advance to the Senate floor for a vote before May end.
But several hurdles remain, especially in the Republican-controlled House, where most of the party members have expressed opposition to allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens, it said. According to the Post, many in the capital crowd held up signs that read, "Dividing families is immoral!" and "I was born on Earth, how am I an alien?!" They waved flags from Mexico, Brazil and El Salvador, as well as the American flag.
On another corner of the Capitol grounds, apart from the rally, a small group of opponents held up placards saying "Secure the Border" and "No Amnesty." They said legalising millions of undocumented immigrants would allow them to compete unfairly with American workers. Under the terms of the proposed bill, illegal immigrants could earn green cards in 10 years and citizenship in 13 years if they meet certain requirements, including learning English, paying fines and back taxes and remaining employed.