*Note: This post includes an update after the march, at the end.
Today is a day for celebration across the land. Tomorrow the real task of governing begins for some, and for others the work of lobbying and pushing for reform starts. Before the dust of the inauguration has time to settle a group of pro-immigrant organizations will hold a march in Washington D.C. for “just and humane” immigration reform. (See more below.)
Latino civil leaders and lobbying organizations intend to keep the issue in the front burner despite a new nationwide poll showing the economy, not immigration, is Latinos’ top concern.
Latino leaders reminded the incoming administration just that Monday during the Latino State of the Union gathering, organized by the National Council of La Raza, the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and the League of United Latin American Citizens.
As we’ve reported during this presidential transition, Latino leaders believe that the heavy support Barack Obama received from Hispanic voters must be answered in kind. Comprehensive immigration reform is at the top of their agenda. Monday, they made this clear, as The New York Times’ Fernanda Santos reported.
John Trasviña, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which hosted the event, the second annual Latino State of the Union, a gathering of advocates, civil rights activists and lawmakers representing the interests of the Latino community, said: “We have to take immigration away from the border and present it as an issue of national interest defined by cooperation, rather than confrontation, with Mexico and Latin America.”
It is, Mr. Trasviña said, a question of fostering acceptance of Latinos, who have been victimized by hate, in the hands of perpetrators who attack them because of their ethnicity, and overzealousness, in the hands of local police officers who have been deputized to act as immigration enforcers in communities nationwide.
To reach these goals, Latino organizations are counting on the Obama Administration’s incoming Latino officials, despite the exit of their would-have-been main champion, Bill Richardson. According to the Times, an Obama spokesperson read a statement at Monday’s event where the incoming president acknowledged that Latinos showed “how powerful you are on Nov. 4” and said his cabinet appointments are “a measure of my commitment” to a diverse government.
Latinos, of course, are also taking part in the celebrations. Sunday’s Latino Inaugural Gala drew a crowd of celebrities from the TV and music worlds, plus some less glitzy but more powerful Latino politicians.
Picking up after them was María Pérez, a Salvadoran woman who’s cleaned D.C.’s Union Station for over twenty years.
“I am hope that Barack Obama fix the economia, give more jobs, give better health programs for all the people in America,” she told New America Media‘s Anthony D. Advincula in a mix of English and Spanish. “Of course, I am hope to hear about imigracion.
“We Latinos, we must support Obama. He’s black, but I am dark, too,” Pérez said, smiling.
Pérez is not the only one who expects to “hear about immigration.” Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos ran an open letter to Obama on the network’s website under the headline: “Don’t fail us.”
To start afresh, Ramos wrote, Obama needs to erase the legacy of the Bush years, “the most anti-immigrant era the United States has had, based on the number of raids and deportees.”
In addition to tomorrow’s march, some pro-immigrant Latino groups have sent thousands of letters to the Obama White House asking that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids and deportations be stopped. The letters are expected to begin arriving on Wednesday.
The march, which will start at Benjamin Banneker Park at 10th & G Streets SW and proceed towards ICE headquarters, is organized by the Fair Immigration Reform Movement and the National Capital Immigration Coalition. [For more information, including how to receive SMS updates, click here.]
According to FIRM’s blog, teams of activists have canvassed the capital in preparation for the march, passing out leaflets and posters with the message, “Reform not raids.”
Update: After the march, The Washington Post reported,
Several hundred immigrant supporters and religious leaders from across the country marched to the Southwest Washington headquarters of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency yesterday, strumming guitars, beating drums and waving colorful homemade banners exhorting President Obama to halt immigration raids and promote legislation offering illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.