LOS ANGELES - Several thousand immigrant rights supporters representing community organizations and trade unions, such as the Korean Immigrant Workers Alliance, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and DREAMers, young undocumented immigrants fighting for their right to stay in the only home they have known with their families, came together to rally in front of Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein's office, demanding that she be a champion for the people and support immigration reform with a path to citizenship.
Among the 11 million undocumented immigrants are 1.4 million Koreans who suffer many of the same low paid jobs, fear of deportation, as their Latino counterparts. Marchers, too large to be contained on the sidewalk, spilled out to the streets and blocked traffic demonstrating their force in numbers. (Article continues after video.)
This week the bipartisan group of senators, called the "Gang of Eight," introduced a sweeping immigration bill, which immigrant rights and labor organizations welcomed, while pledging to keep pressure on for improvements.
"This legislation, while not perfect, is a monumental step forward in ensuring that this nation has a fair, humane and effective 21st-century immigration policy that serves our nation's best interests and works for all Americans, including families, workers and businesses," said National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguía in a statement, noting the importance of the inclusion of "a real roadmap for undocumented immigrants to earn legal status and eventual citizenship."
The Dream Action Coalition, which brings together political action, social media and the movement of undocumented young people, announced its launch of a grassroots and online campaign targeting two Republican senators, John Cornyn of Texas and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, urging them to "not to stand in the way of debate."
While welcoming the progress on immigration reform, the coalition warned in a statement that "vital provisions" are lacking. "Those previously deported should have a guaranteed and quick process to apply for return and reunify with their families in the U.S.; legislation should provide practical waivers for those who have not committed violent or aggravated felonies; family unity should continue to be an integral component under the new immigration system," the statement read.
Calling the bill "another step toward addressing a real crisis," labor leader Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said the movement for a "roadmap to citizenship for more than 11 million aspiring Americans" will win. "[W]hile Washington, D.C., is full of legislative unveilings that dissolve into recriminations and unsolved problems, this time actually is different. Our cause is unstoppable. There will be a roadmap to citizenship in 2013."
Trumka also balanced the progress with the real life problems faced by immigrant families that need immediate attention. "[W]hile we are making progress in Washington, there is an accelerating crisis of deportations in America. It isn't a crisis when violent criminals or drug dealers are deported after due process, that's common sense. But it is a crisis when workers who stand up for themselves in the workplace are deported after employers decide immigrant workers no longer know their place. It is a crisis when DREAMers are separated needlessly from their parents by deportation," he said, pledging "presidential campaign style resources" to ensure a "compassionate and constructive" law that guarantees "all workers have a place on the roadmap to citizenship, to reuniting families, and establishing long overdue worker protections."
New York Immigration Coalition began to delve into the approximately 850-page bill and offered a brief overview of the positive and negative aspects, available online here: http://www.thenyic.org/PR/BillResponse-4-17-13.
Photo: Californians continue to pressure Sen. Dianne Feinstein to be a "champion" of the people and their demand for immigration reform (PW/Rossana Cambron).
Teresa Albano contributed to this article.