Immigration: Protesters rally against comprehensive reform

Photo: Mike Conneen

Hundreds of protesters marched from Freedom Plaza to Capitol Hill Monday, rallying against comprehensive immigration reform as it works its way through Congress.

Participants demanded that Congress abandon any legislation with a pathway to citizenship for immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

Protester Rosanna Pulido said, “When we have unemployment back down to 4 percent we can talk about immigration.”

Organizers called the event the "D.C. March for Jobs." They blame the nation’s high unemployment rate on undocumented workers.

It was a diverse crowd racially, geographically and politically. The organizers invited a coalition of Tea Party activists and black clergy, as well as past and present lawmakers.

“We are black. We are white. We are Latino. We are left, we are right,” said march organizer Leah Durant. “But we stand together as Americans in opposition to a bill that we feel will harm us.”

The participants said they oppose giving "amnesty” to individuals who come into the country illegally. Instead, protesters like Alexandria resident and Tea Party activist Lisa Miller want more border security.

“The president and presidents going back the past 20 years have not been enforcing the law,” Miller said.

The counter-argument from supporters of the Senate's bipartisan “Gang of 8” bill is that immigration reform would mean more legal workers, which results in more spending and therefore a more robust economy.

Supporters also dispute the claim that illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from American citizens because those are typically low skill, low wage jobs -- in industries like construction, agriculture and other labor -- that everyday Americans won’t take.

But at the march, protesters said that's a fallacy.

“I just came from down south where I went on a listening tour and I visited with people in North Carolina and South Carolina,” Durant said. “I mean, these are jobs that people will take, that they're willing to do. They just need to be paid a good, fair wage.”

“You know what's happening is we're driving down wages by flooding the labor market by bringing in so many workers,” she said.

Several speakers at the rally blamed President Obama and Democrats for high unemployment rates, especially in the black community.

Protesters also repeatedly booed Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), a Tea Party favorite, but also a member of the Gang of 8 and a supporter of the Senate bill.

Even the Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), who's been cautious about considering the Senate’s legislation, got a warning from the crowd.

At the podium, one speaker shouted, “Mr. Boehner, you want to run this law through? Do so at your own political peril!” The crowd cheered and applauded.