WASHINGTON – Immigrant rights groups from Maryland and other states will try to remind Congress of immigration reform, now on a back burner, with a rally on the National Mall and march around the Capitol today.
The goal is legalization of all immigrants now in the United States and an end to deportations, said Juan Carlos Ruiz, general coordinator of the National Capital Immigration Coalition, which is leading the march with the We Are America Alliance, another immigrant rights group.
“Leaders in Congress are just playing games with the American people,” said Ruiz, adding that while today’s rally might not immediately lead to favorable legislation, it may increase the public’s awareness of the problems facing immigrants.
Ruiz predicts turnout will rival April 10’s protest, which drew hundreds of thousands to the National Mall. Today’s rally, however, has not been as widely publicized, and Labor Day protests in several cities attracted a fraction of the protesters attending April’s events.
At least 25,000 people from in and around Maryland are expected to attend, according to CASA de Maryland Inc., which confirmed attendance by phone.
Today, between 150 and 200 CASA volunteers, or “peacekeepers,” will fan out to direct crowds at Montgomery-area Metro stations, including Silver Spring, Takoma, Wheaton and Shady Grove, as well as in Washington at Gallery Place and Union Station, organizer Alexis De Simone said. A few buses will run from outlying areas like Baltimore, Frederick and the Eastern Shore.
Immigration reform is a particularly volatile issue in Montgomery County, where 29 percent of its residents are foreign born, according to 2005 U.S. Census Bureau data.
“I work with domestic workers, and I haven’t come across an American domestic worker yet, and so the people who are taking care of the community, the people who are watching over our children, are immigrants,” De Simone said.
Steven Schreiman, Maryland director of the anti-legalization Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, attributes substandard housing in Silver Spring and Takoma Park to a heavy illegal immigrant population working for lower wages.
“It just promotes degradation of areas that were once viable to raise families in,” Schreiman said of the movement to protect illegal immigrants.
Echoing the sentiments of many others in favor of more stringent immigration policies, Schreiman said today’s rally will hurt the protesters’ cause by highlighting the swelling ranks of illegal immigrants and their supporters.
“When they go out there and protest, they get that many Americans more upset about it,” Schreiman said. “I welcome them to protest all they want.”
Maryland Delegate Herb McMillan, R-Anne Arundel, a supporter of more stringent immigration measures, agreed that the rally won’t make him any more sympathetic toward illegal immigrants.
“They’re not citizens and, quite candidly, my job is to represent citizens, so they’re certainly not going to have sway on me,” McMillan said.
Fellow state Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez, D-Montgomery, plans to attend the rally and speak in support of increased protections for undocumented workers.
“We need to continue to put pressure on the only ones who can fix the problem, and that is the federal Congress,” Gutierrez said. “So that’s the purpose of this march, to say, ‘You haven’t done your jobs.'” –