People came from as far as California to attend the rally on Sunday in support of immigration reform. Buses parked on side streets across the city of Washington, DC, as the mall filled with families, union members, religious congregations, community organizers, and immigrants from all walks of life. Throughout the day organizers came back with estimates for the crowd size. 100,000! 150,000! 200,000! Congress toiled inside to pass health care legislation. “Health care today, immigration reform tomorrow!” said the speakers who took the stage.
The rally started at two in the afternoon, and was going strong as evening approached. Congressional representatives spoke, including Senator Menendez and Congressman Luis Gutierrez. Religious leaders, farm workers, union leaders, and immigration advocates addressed the crowd. The Dream Act marchers sent a student speaker, and a video from the road. They were not the youngest speakers, though. A little boy told the crowd about one of his parents being deported, and his fear for his other parent in proceedings. At the end of his speech he called out “Gutierrez for President,” and the crowd cheered.
The crowd was hopeful, at times chanting, “Si se puede!” and “Ya es la hora.” President Obama sent a video to the rally, reiterating his commitment to immigration reform for this year. “That drew a big response from the marchers,” said Allison Posner, a member of the National Immigrant Bond Fund steering committee, who attended the rally. Still, some people were a little nervous about the trip home, she said. “One union organizer, who knows I am a lawyer, asked for my phone number, ‘just in case’ there was a problem on the road,” said Allison. Without lawful immigration status, people who attended the rally risked possible arrest and detention. But they are hopeful for a path to citizenship.