La Opinión, News Report, Eileen Truax, Translated by Elena Shore,
LOS ANGELES -- They had already filled more than two blocks, but throngs of people continued to pour into the March for Fair and Comprehensive Immigration Reform in Los Angeles, where white T-shirts, American flags and loud chants once again moved up Broadway.
In an effort to keep up the momentum after more than 200,000 people rallied March 21 in Washington, D.C., yesterday's demonstration reminded Barack Obama of the promise he had made during his election campaign to pass immigration reform within his first year in office. Three months after his one-year anniversary, the promise remains unfulfilled.
"People keep coming, the message is being sent and we will echo what they demanded in Washington," said an enthusiastic Raul Murillo, regional president of Hermandad Mexicana Nacional. "We call on other cities to take to the streets, so there are protests and we build support everywhere.”
As people chanted slogans on the corner of Olympic Street, hundreds of others were looking for a place along Broadway to join in the march as it passed by.
At the starting point, religious and community leaders said a short prayer for those who live in the shadows in the United States as a result of their immigration status.
“Human rights exist no matter what our religion is, because all religions believe in justice,” someone said from the speaker as people waited anxiously in the sun. “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” chanted the nearly 4,000 attendees who had gathered shortly before noon. The chant "¡Sí se puede, sí se puede!" (Yes, we can) grew in intensity until it forced the contingent to start.
In front of the column, dozens of white pigeons were released, and in the midst of that collective joy, the march began. As with previous demonstrations, the young people singing and drumming, union members chanting slogans, and children smiling created a perfect picture of the immigrant community as it walked 10 blocks to the corner of Broadway and Temple, where the demonstration came to an end.
"No, I’m not tired. It took me two hours to get here from San Bernardino, but I'm here, " said Rosa Cordova, an older woman who proudly told her story. During the seventies she and her husband worked in the fields with César Chávez, so she is used to mobilizations. "My daughter argued with me because I'm walking in this, but I told her, ‘Thank God you don’t have to go through this situation that so many people are in,’" she said.
"Obama, don’t deport my daddy," read a hand-made sign carried by a little girl. "The ‘wetback’ is wet from crying so much," one woman’s sign read. "No legalization, no re-election," threatened another sign carried by a man demanding "papers."
An hour later the last groups had made it to Fourth Street, and five blocks away, the leaders of the march arrived at the meeting place. There, after celebrating the success of the mobilization, they all held hands and made a deal: preserve the unity achieved during this march despite differences between organizations, and hold a single mobilization on May 1 -- unlike last year, when disagreements between groups resulted in five separate, small marches.
“We’re going to work together so our voices are heard from California,” said Angélica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).
"Our common work plan is: We want a bipartisan reform bill to be presented before April; we will participate in the protest on April 10 in Las Vegas, with Congressmen Reid and Gutierrez; and on May 1 we will present a list of who the Congress members are who have supported immigration reform and who haven’t," Salas said.
María Elena Durazo, secretary-treasurer of the union AFL-CIO, said the labor movement has always supported the immigrant movement to ensure respect for the rights of workers. She expressed confidence that the president would still keep its promise. "¡Con Obama sí se puede!" (With Obama, yes we can!), she shouted, inviting the audience to join her in the United Farm Workers’ well-known chant.
A special place on stage was set aside for students calling for the passage of the DREAM Act, which would allow them to regularize their immigration status and access higher education.
“My name is Pedro, I’m from [California State] University at Northridge, I’m undocumented and my parents are too," said a young man. "This is a photo of my grandma who I haven’t seen in 15 years,” he said, holding up a photograph of a woman. “She has stayed in my country. My mom hasn’t been able to see her either. We are calling for reform for the people who have worked for so many years away from their families.”
After a brief prayer, the event ended with the promise to keep turnout high in the upcoming rallies. According to organizers, the total number of demonstrators was close to "50,000." This newspaper’s estimates placed the figure between 10,000 and 15,000 people. As of press time, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had not released an official count.
Photos: J. Emilio Flores/La Opinión