The crowd waved signs, chanted mostly in Spanish and listened to various speakers who urged Congress to come up with a comprehensive reform solution that includes a path to citizenship for millions of people living in the country illegally. The rally was one of a number scheduled in various cities around the country to coincide with a larger rally Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
The rallies are intended to send a message to Congress, where a bipartisan group of senators is working to hash out a bill to address the nation’s immigration system.
Organizers in Atlanta said they were pleased with the turnout, given that the rally and march were scheduled for the middle of the day in the middle of the week — when many people are supposed to be at work.
Carlos Lagunas, 14, a ninth-grader who lives in Douglasville and was brought to the country illegally by his parents when he was a young child, said he saw a posting about the rally on Facebook and thought it would be a good way to spend a day of his spring break.
The issue is very personal for him, he said, because his father was stopped at a roadblock two years ago, arrested for driving without a license and subsequently deported to Mexico. Lagunas hasn’t seen his father since then and hopes that immigration reform will allow his family to be reunited.
Seeing all the people who turned out for the rally encouraged him, he said.
“Together with a lot of people we can show that we want this to happen,” he said. “It’s powerful.”
Jose Hernandez, a Mexican national, has lived in Atlanta for eight years after crossing the border illegally.
He is the father of a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old who were born here and said a path to legalization would make his life much easier.
“I’m hoping I can get papers so I can work legally in this country,” he said in Spanish. “I’m an honest and noble person. I’m a mechanic, and I want to be able to work legally.”
D.A. King, an activist who fights for stricter enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws, said the protesters at the Capitol were proving their agenda by demanding an end to deportations.
“These people are against borders and enforcement, and that would not change with another amnesty,” he said. “We’ve proven that legalization by any name only increases illegal immigration. This wouldn’t be any different.”