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.