March 21st, 2010
03:47 PM ET
10 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: Extra • Immigration
soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. vicki in San Pedro

    For years no one said much of anything as thousands of illegal immigrants poured in the USA in search of jobs and a better life. How did they manage to remain? Employers were happy to have a cheap labor force. As an example we saw white construction workers lose jobs to African-Americans, and they in turn lost jobs to Latinos. Who is to blame? Employers are to blame. In the meantime, we have come to depend on all those immigrants. Now is the time to make them citizens and, at the same time, close the borders...really, close the borders and no one else gets in except through the consulates, legally. We cannot punish all the current illegal immigrants for the fact that American bosses found them desirable as laborers because they worked for less money. This is a no-brainer. Let's bring them legally into the system and let them share not only the wealth but the tax obligation the rest of us share. So, I say Amnesty: Yes Close borders: Yes

    March 21, 2010 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  2. Albo58

    DEPORT NOW! Our country needs secure borders, effective law enforcement, and political leadership to OBSERVE the immigration laws we already have on the books! If we can send a man to the moon, then we can definitely throw these law-breakers out of the country!

    March 21, 2010 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  3. JLP

    This country is fast becoming the worlds biggest joke. We not only try to force our "standards" on others, we cant even manage our own finances. If our familys operated like the USA, we would be bankrupt in a month.

    March 21, 2010 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  4. vicki San Pedro

    Who welcomed illegal immigrants with open arms? Employers! Do you really think employers want all 12 million illegal immigrants to go home? Of course they don't. Where will they get cheap labor? You cannot blame the Latinos or any other person want to come to the USA for freedom and hope of a better life. The humanitarian response to the current problem is to give amnesty to those who have been here a long time illegally, make them citizens, let them pay income taxes like the rest of us. AND, CLOSE THE BORDERS! This is a daunting task for the USA but we must do it to prevent more and more people from coming here. And, after a certain future date, any employer caught hiring an illegal immigrant should be fined and charged to pay the ticket for that illegal immigrant to go back to his native country. So, YES to AMNESTY and YES to CLOSING THE BORDERS.

    March 21, 2010 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  5. dg

    i hope obama pulls out his magic wand to pay for all this

    March 21, 2010 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  6. Charlotte

    Extremely poor timing, folks. They'd have gotten a lot more people paying attention had they waited a week. As it is the fact that this story has only 12 comments as I type this, whereas everything related to the health reform has been closed after 200-300, suggests that they could have better used their resources and travel funds any other weekend than this one.

    March 21, 2010 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  7. Doris V

    After health care , jobs for all and the economy, immigration is on my list of things that must be done. We are all children, grandchildren or whatever of immigrants. Most immigrants still come here for a better life for themselves and their children. They work as hard as our ancestors did when they arrived in America. Times are different for sure. Perhaps more difficult in many aspects. We should not divide families of people, who even if they entered illegally, have been here for years and have obeyed all other laws. This ugly hatred will kill America.

    March 21, 2010 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  8. Charlotte

    Hunh, both sides try to blur the distinction. The redneck, ignoramus slobs who spew hatred and epithets at everyone with brown skin would have you believe that everyone with an Hispanic surname is a criminal and here illegally – news for you dildoes, in the Southwest the white trash are the newbies and the Hispanics had settled in the area before the Mayflower ever left England – but there are plenty of pro-legalization groups that also blur the lines between undocumenteds and those who are perfectly legally here, whether as citizens or legal immigrants. Fact remains that it is OUR people who have brought most of the illegals into the country, and those agribusiness and other factories are the ones who should be held accountable. If our economy would not function without these folks (and that probably is the case, since the white slobs think they're above menial labor and picking lettuce and skinning catfish) then we need to get our heads out of our backsides and have a rational discussion about solving the problem, rather than hurling ignorant incriminations at poor people who work harder than most of the whities and who happen to pay taxes (unlike a lot of the whities)

    March 21, 2010 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  9. Ancient Texan

    You could almost see this coming 2 years ago. The Obama Agenda is in trouble because the American Public is finally waking up. So If they can ram an amnesty bill through against the majority of the people's wishes, there is another 20-30 million new voters that are obligated to the democrats.

    March 21, 2010 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  10. diridi

    nation needs it and stricter immigration measures...including india too.ok..put strictures in visa sys...

    March 21, 2010 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  11. Michael

    Just a bunch of people looking to be rewarded for illegal acts
    But who are the real criminals ? Maybe congress for breaking there duty to secure the hispanic vote – and Folks that is BOTH sides doing it

    March 21, 2010 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  12. hernan

    To all people who don't understand immigration reform is IGNORANCE.
    Thier is no word to explain to people who think they still thier job(for the U.S. citezen)People here is already working they dont still the job from you ignorance people you dont like the job that they have.You only want this now coz you lost your job.stilling other job is also illegal i'm you also illegal.Do good things for people then i will call you human.till then you are ignorance and not human.Try to be human may be ,may be your heart & soul will thinks how immigration reform will help this country to go back in good stand.20 million is allready here & willing to pay taxes do the math.

    March 21, 2010 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  13. Keepin' It Real

    Hey Illegals! Get in line like our ancestors did, go through a rigorous health exam, get de-loused, prove that you have a skill we need in the US, prove that you have enough money to pay your way when you enter this country (or face being immediately deported) JUST LIKE OUR ANCESTORS DID WHEN THEY CAME THROUGH ELLIS ISLAND!
    You are Mexicans. What is wrong with Mexico that you can't stay there and work to make it a better country? It's your motherland for God's sake. And, by the way, if you're here illegally, you have no rights. Stop whining and go back where you came from if you don't want to go through the proper channels for legal immigration. We're tired of paying for you and all your kids. We can barely pay our own way thanks to hundreds of illegals sneaking across our borders every day. Come as a guest worker if you want, do the job you came to do, take your money, and return to your families in Mexico.

    March 21, 2010 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  14. christy

    I don't mind people coming to the US I just want people to pay for their kids! Also if you want to live anywhere you should be able to support yourself and not live on welfare! OR pop out many children and not consider birth control because the majority of people with their religious views don't BELIEVE IN IT!!

    March 21, 2010 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  15. Jorge Delgado

    It is funny how everybody demonize illegal immigrants, especially mexicans, but nobody mention that the reason millions of undocumented workers from Mexico have had to move to the United States in the last 20 years is because NAFTA have killed millions of jobs in agricultural business in that country. With a subsidized rice and corn in the United States and without restrictions, Mexico agricultural industry have not been able to compete with American agricultural industry, and therefore millions of mexicans abandoned the fields and move to the north, causing the mess we have now.

    March 22, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
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