It was one of a series of immigrant rights demonstrations held during the week of Labor Day in a number of cities. Among the participants were labor union contingents from UNITE HERE, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Laborers union.
Speakers at the rally included NAACP president Bruce Gordon, Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, UNITE HERE president John Wilhelm, and Eliseo Medina, international vice president of SEIU. Several prominent Democrats also gave speeches, including Sen. Edward Kennedy, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee, and Congressman Luis Gutierrez.
The NAACP is here to fight with you and for you for justice, Gordon told the crowd. Too many people want to divide us, pit Black against brown. We cant let that happen.
Like a number of speakers, Kennedy emphasized electing politicians who can reform immigration laws. If we cant get this Congress to pass fair immigration reform now, well elect a new congress in November that will pass it, he said.
Jaime Contreras, president of the National Capital Immigration Coalition (NCIC), which organized the march and rally, said, We can achieve immigration reform like Senator Kennedy said. Even if it means paying a fine.
Macrina Alarcon of Mexicanas Sin Fronteras (Mexicans Without Borders) spoke about fights against harassment and anti-immigrant city ordinances from Hazleton, Pennsylvania, to the recently defeated ordinance in Palm Bay, Florida.
We will not accept the carrot as long as it comes with a stick, said Alarcon. Several bills that have been proposed as pro-immigrant alternatives to HR 4437 include further measures aimed at criminalizing undocumented immigrants, a range of restrictions and fines, construction of a wall along the border, and measures to beef up the immigration police.
HR 4437, passed by the House of Representatives in December, would make it a criminal offense to be in the United States without proper papers.
We believe this is only the beginning of our fight, said Carlos Lopez, a day laborer from Virginia who spoke at the rally.
>Maura DeLuca, Seth Dellinger, and Sara Ullman contributed to this article.
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