Immigration advocates announced plans Thursday for rallies in dozens of cities Oct. 5 to pressure Congress to approve legislation to overhaul the nation's border control laws and demand an end to mass deportations of the undocumented.
The National Day for Dignity and Respect will be a prelude to a rally and concert on the Mall on Oct. 8, during which thousands are expected to demonstrate in support of comprehensive immigration reform, the organizers said. The goal is to keep a spotlight on the issue even as Congress and the White House are engaged in fierce battles over the budget and debt ceiling, which are threatening to push immigration off the agenda.
The advocates said their focus would be primarily on House Republicans, who have declined to support a Senate-approved immigration bill that features a path to citizenship for most of the nation's 11 million undocumented workers and students.
"The House may try to delay and deny our efforts," said Richard Morales, detention prevention coordinator for the Campaign for Citizenship of PICO National Network. "That translates into a situation of crisis for hundreds of thousands of immigrant families across the county each and every day."
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), a leading voice on immigration, said that within the next 40 days, a total of 2 million unauthorized immigrants would have been deported since President Obama took office in 2009. The administration is deporting more than 1,000 people a day, and advocates have increasingly called on the president to use his executive authority to defer the deportations. Obama has said he cannot do so because it would violate federal law.
Gutierrez acknowledged that immigration has fallen further down the agenda amid the fiscal fights, calling it a "very tough, dark tunnel" to get a comprehensive bill approved this year. But he added that Congress "should understand we're not going away. The deportations are continuing and continue to have a devastating effect."