RITA Strikes First in Immigration Reform Debate
Thousands rallied at the Capitol Steps for a comprehensive reform bill that doesn’t sacrifice any communities
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(AUSTIN, Texas) – The ones from El Paso traveled all night to be there. The ones from the Rio Grande Valley and North Texas left their homes before the sun was up. They organized caravans, slept overnight in buses and traded off driving duties during the long drive.
They all made it. Over 2,000 people converged in Austin today to deliver a message: We demand immigration reform.
The crowd marched for about one mile down Congress Ave. to a rally at the South Steps of the Capitol. This was the first major mobilization for immigration reform in the U.S. since the reelection of Barack Obama.
Corey Tabor, Lead Pastor of Full Life Community Church opened the rally with a prayer at the south steps of the Capitol. “We pray for decriminalization of the families in this community, God. We pray for protection and education.”
Esther Reyes, Executive Director of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, then took over the mic. “I think we are being heard, what do you think?” The crowd cheered in agreement.
Speakers from every part of the state and across sectors of society. They were children and parents and even grandparents. They were Latino, African-American, Asian and White. Some were immigrants and others were descendants of immigrants.
Each one laid out Texans’ demands: Stop punitive and accountable enforcement in our border communities. Stop the deportations and separation of families as a down payment for reform. Create a fair pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Keep American families together.
“We are undocumented and and we are unafraid. And we are fighting for this, not just for us, but for our families, for our parents, too,” said Alicia Torres, of La T.U.Y.A (Texas Undocumented Youth Alliance), a statewide network of immigrant youth.
Texans are in a position to make such bold demands. The Latino vote was decisive and historic in the November elections, and one of the reasons was voters’ hope for immigration reform. While Barack Obama offered Deferred Action to DREAMers and renewed his pledge to pass reform, Mitt Romney lurched to the right and offered only self-deportation. This sealed their fates with Latino, Asian and young voters and the rest is history.
“No one and no party will be able to win a general election ever again without the Latino vote. Ever again. Period.” said Fernando Garcia, Executive Director of the Border Network for Human Rights, a founding organization of RITA which brought about 200 people in buses and vans from El Paso to be in Austin today.
After the rally, two delegations walked several blocks to visit the Austin offices of Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. While the senators weren’t available, their staff eventually agreed to come down and meet with the marchers. Click here to read more and see photos about what happened at Sen. Ted Cruz’s office.
Dean Reed, a Methodist pastor who traveled from Arlington and who is the Executive Director of Justice for Our Neighbors, was the only person allowed to enter the building on W. 6th Street to speak to a member of Sen. John Cornyn’s staff. “I told her that I knew the senator was a Christian and that this was an issue of compassion, that our faith is about compassion” he said. “I told her that people don’t come here because they don’t care about the law. They come here because they are desperate.”
While Reed delivered the message in the lobby of the building, the rest of the group stayed outside and chanted “Cornyn, escucha, Estamos en la lucha!” (“Cornyn, listen we are in the fight!”)