In 2006 while a local television reporter in Providence, Rhode Island, I covered the immigration reform rally, one of many held throughout the country. Many in politics and the media marveled that Latinos had come out in big numbers. Fast forward seven years to this week’s “All in for Citizenship” rally in Washington, DC (with important sister rallies held in other cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Atlanta).
What’s different is the Latino community’s growth as confirmed by the 2010 U.S. Census and the November election where record numbers of Hispanic voters cast ballots, forming the key component of the coalition that delivered re-election to President Obama. With this segment of the electorate projected to grow, it is clear that the road to the White House, and state governorships must go through the barrio, small businesses which Hispanics open at three times the rate of the general population, and escuelas where 25% of public school students are Latino.
Hispanic voters are emboldened, wielding power provided by the ballot, and demanding action on issues that matter to them.
Enter: the proposed overhaul to our immigration system that could be introduced by the so-called Gang of Eight Democratic and Republican Senators, as early as next week. It’s not a done deal, with continuing opposition over border security and cost, to name a few of the sticking points.
Which leads us back to the rally. Before arriving at the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol, I knew politicians and the advocacy community would say rousing words. But how about average young people who are stepping out into their lives as adults--students, employees, future moms, and professionals?
I asked those I interviewed to finish the sentence: “what does comprehensive immigration reform mean to me?” Their raw, honest answers made clear that this debate--our system, enforcement policy, political tone and rhetoric--is far from abstract.
It’s real and playing out every day in their lives in schools, at work, and home.
An overhaul to this system is deeply personal and urgent because it’s about family.
"March on Washington: 'What Comprehensive Immigration Reform Means to Me'" was first published in Latina Magazine on April 11, 2013. Click below to hear my interviews at the rally where young people answer the question: what does comprehensive immigration reform mean to me: