March 22nd, 2010
07:02 AM ET
8 years ago

Immigration rally draws thousands to Washington


Supporters of overhauling the country's immigration laws rallied in Washington Sunday. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Washington (CNN) - Tens of thousands of people turned out on Washington's National Mall on Sunday to support the Obama administration in its next big battle, a renewed effort to overhaul U.S. immigration laws.

Speaking by video to the crowd, President Barack Obama said he would do "everything in my power" to get a bipartisan deal within the year.

"You know as well as I do that this won't be easy, and it won't happen overnight," Obama said. "But if we work together across ethnic, state and party lines, we can build a future worthy of our history as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws."

Obama's appearance was followed by comments from Gustavo Torres, executive director of the Baltimore-based immigrant advocacy group CASA de Maryland. Torres told the crowd, "Mr. President, we are going to hold you accountable."

Though overshadowed by the historic debate on health care taking place in the nearby halls of Congress, Sunday's rally set the stage for a revival of efforts to reshape U.S. immigration law. The issue has been largely sidelined since a similar push by the Bush administration failed in 2007.

"You are a spectacular sight," Ali Noorani, chairman of the coalition that organized the demonstration, told the crowd. Noorani said the rally had drawn more than 150,000 people "from across the country, and we are demanding comprehensive immigration reform now."

Noorani's figure could not be verified immediately, but the crowd packed more than two blocks of the Mall between the Capitol and the Washington Monument.

Then-President George Bush supported a bipartisan effort to overhaul U.S. immigration laws four years ago, proposing to set up a path to legal status for the estimated 11 million people currently in the United States without authorization. But those measures were criticized as establishing "amnesty" for illegal immigrants, and legislation Bush supported died with a Senate filibuster - one led by members of his own party but joined by more than a dozen Democrats.

The event followed last week's publication of a new plan backed by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina. The plan would create a "tough but fair" path to legalization, as well as a temporary worker program and tighter border controls, the sponsors wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece Friday.

Obama called the senators' plans "promising," and said it "should be the basis for moving forward." He called on Congress to act on that plan "at the earliest possible opportunity."

Obama's push on immigration also helped secure a key vote for his health-care bill. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Illinois, announced his support for the bill after receiving a commitment to move forward on immigration "as soon as possible."

"The wait is over. The time is now," Gutierrez told Sunday's rally. "We're ready to turn our hope into victory."

Updated: 5:54 p.m.

- CNN's Sandra Endo contributed to this report.

Filed under: Immigration
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. T'SAH from Virginia

    And the Tea Party tried to CLAIM the crowd!!!

    On another note – why the cameras NEVER pan out to show the REAL crowd numbers at the Tea Party events???? I guess it's because they want to LIE about the numbers!!!

    Now the Immigration crowd was true to size and no one needs to exaggerate it!!

    March 22, 2010 08:49 am at 8:49 am |
  2. Bryan

    free government health care and open borders great!

    how long before this union disintergrates?

    what will the second American Civil war look like? Where will the lines be drawn?

    March 22, 2010 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  3. Marcus Tate

    Yes, Mr. President, We, The American People, ARE going to hold you accountable if you make 30 – 40 million illegal immigrants into new citizens. And by the way, why isn't ICE at these so-called rallies, rounding up some of these people who have no legal right to be here, let alone protest anything?

    March 22, 2010 09:15 am at 9:15 am |
  4. Adan Jimenez

    I hope that this time the program works to bring this matter to a just and legally sensible conclusion. The last time immigration reform was attempted, it failed due to the fact that it was seen as being more about amnesty than real reform. This time it should focus on more about the responsibility on the part of the immigrant and the illegality of his/her act in coming here. In all fairness, they should really be deported in accordance with the requirements of our immigration laws. IN EFFECT, THESE ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS SHOULD NOT BE REWARDED FOR THEIR WANTON ILLEGALITY. This should be the guiding principle in fashioning a new program for them.

    March 22, 2010 09:50 am at 9:50 am |

    Here comes this next. More and more and more. How much more can this country take before it breaks. This president won't stop till he does. He wants this country to fail and he is doing an excellent job of it.

    March 22, 2010 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  6. Jake

    Obama wants to add the illegals to the democratic list for the votes,if these were republicans,he would have them all deported.

    March 22, 2010 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  7. Lucullus

    The first thing that we need to do regarding immigration reform is to be honest. The people who need it the most are not immigrants they are in this country illegally. They are not like the people who come here legally, they should not be allowed circumvent the law.

    I would also ask those who lead this fight for illegal alien reform what they would suggest we do 20 years down the line when we have another 16 million illegals who want to stay?

    Finally, when did it become a crime for a country to decide who can and cannot reside in said country? Has anyone ever read Mexico's immigration laws? They are far, far, stricter than ours, not that any one would want to immigrate there in the first place

    March 22, 2010 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  8. gt

    send them home every one of them...

    March 22, 2010 11:40 am at 11:40 am |