March 22, 2010 in Nation/World

Rally begs action on immigration

Thousands march on mall to make reform a priority
Sarah Karush Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Damian Cruz, 21, a college student from Elba, N.Y., holds a sign under a giant American flag at a rally for immigration reform Sunday in Washington, D.C.
(Full-size photo)

Bill in works

Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., released an outline of a bill last week that calls for illegal immigrants who want to get on the path to legal status to admit they broke the law by entering the U.S., pay fines and back taxes, and perform community service. They also would be required to pass background checks and be proficient in English before working toward legal residency.

WASHINGTON – Frustrated with the lack of action to overhaul the country’s immigration system, tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied on the National Mall and marched through the streets of the capital Sunday, waving American flags and holding homemade signs in English and Spanish.

Supporters traveled from around the country in hopes the rally would re-energize Congress to take up the volatile issue.

President Barack Obama, who promised to make overhauling the immigration system a top priority in his first year, sought to reassure those at the rally with a video message presented on giant screens at the National Mall. The president said he was committed to working with Congress this year on a comprehensive bill to fix a “broken immigration system.”

Obama said problems include families being torn apart, employers gaming the system and police officers struggling to keep communities safe.

The president, whose comments were released as he worked to get last-minute votes on a health care overhaul, said he would do everything in his power to forge a bipartisan consensus on immigration reform.

Some demonstrators were disappointed there hasn’t been more action a year into Obama’s term.

“I understand it may not all be his (Obama’s) fault,” said Manuel Bettran, a 21-year-old college student from Chicago. “I am frustrated. I really wish not just him, but everybody, would take it more seriously.”

Lawmakers failed to agree in 2006 and 2007 when they last tried to overhaul the immigration system, and the political climate is even tougher now.

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