By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times
Flexing their political muscle, a swell of tens of thousands of immigrants and their supporters took to the nation’s front yard of the National Mall on Sunday to demand immigration reform move atop the crowded legislative agenda and to warn President Obama and Congress that their patience is running out.
Declaring immigration the next civil rights fight, the marchers called for legalization of all illegal immigrants and said they’ll vote against anyone who doesn’t back them.
“President Obama, members of Congress, do not mess with us,” said Mary Rose Wilcox, a member of the Maricopa County, Ariz., Board of Supervisors.
Organizers claimed at least 200,000 people in attendance and said news reports put the figure as high as 500,000 for the three-hour rally and march to Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. Sponsors said the rally was the biggest political mobilization since Mr. Obama’s inauguration a year ago.
Mr. Obama delivered a taped address to the crowd, repeating his pledge to try to work with a bipartisan coalition in Congress to pass a bill.
“If we work together, across ethnic, state and party lines, we can build a future worthy of our history as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws,” he said.
Speakers were divided over his efforts so far. Some praised the president for pledging support, but many seemed to argue that he has failed them by not forcing the issue onto the agenda earlier, and by stepping up deportations.
Handmade signs in the crowd – “Reform not raids” and “Obama keep your promises” – indicated that the immigrant rights community is expecting more than words of encouragement.
“President Obama, stop pointing fingers at the Congress. You have the power, and if you fail to deliver, we will hold you accountable,” said Gustavo Torres, executive director of CASA de Maryland.
Mr. Obama promised during the presidential campaign to take up immigration reform early in his tenure. After more than a year in office, his agenda has been choked by efforts on health care, climate change and the economy.
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