About 1,000 demonstrators, including many from Toledo, rallied outside U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s Springfield office on Saturday calling for Mr. Boehner to “show some guts” and allow Congress to immediately pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would include a road to citizenship for 11 million immigrants living illegally in the United States.
The event drew protesters from Midwestern cities and was part of an effort dubbed “National Day for Dignity and Respect.”
Carolina Phillips, a paralegal for the Toledo-based DiFranco Law Firm, said the demonstration was a day of empowerment for hundreds of illegal immigrants who turned out to speak out.
“Many of the speakers were DREAMERS [Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors] who have come to the forefront and been part of the strategizing to get immigration reform passed,” said Ms. Phillips, who attended the event.
DREAMERS is the name given to young children who were brought illegally into the United States by their parents and have lived most of their lives here.
The DREAM Act would allow them to remain in the country legally, work and obtain a driver’s license, and eventually could qualify them for permanent residency. It does not offer them citizenship.
Protesters called on Mr. Boehner and Congress to pass a bill that would give illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship.
Baldemar Velasquez, president of Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee, reiterated that message during his keynote speech. And he said what he saw at the rally gave him reason to believe victory is nearing.
“The really good thing is the crowd was so mixed; African-Americans, white, Latinos, Christians, Jews, Muslims. It was representive of America,” Mr. Velasquez said. “We’re all getting on the same page of this issue.”
A handful of counterdemonstrators did show up, shouting racial slurs and trying to interrupt the rally, several Toledo residents who attended said.
The crowd began singing loudly to drown out the counterdemonstrators until police arrived. As protesters were being escorted from the site, a pastor at the podium began leading the crowd in a prayer of forgiveness for those who had interrupted the rally.
The Springfield rally was co-sponsored by Ohio Prophetic Voices, PICO National Network’s Campaign for Citizenship, Cincinnati Workers Center, Stand Up for Ohio, Service Employees International Union, United Food and Commercial Workers, and International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers-Communication Workers of America.
Similar protests are being held nationwide this weekend outside offices of other GOP and Democratic congressmen who have opposed or stayed neutral about immigration reform. More than 130 rallies are planned today.
A group of about 100 protesters Friday evening held a candlelight vigil outside the Lorain office of U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo), whom critics say until recently has been noncommittal about the issue.