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Tens of Thousands Descend on Capitol to Demand Immigration Reform

Demonstrator: "Our community spoke loud and clear that we voted and we voted for immigration reform"

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

View from backstage at the National Rally for Citizenship. (Photo: elllwalker via instagram)Thousands descended on the lawn of the Capitol on Wednesday for the National Rally for Citizenship calling for the White House and Congress to do something—finally—about comprehensive immigration reform and to put an end to discriminatory policies against the 11 million undocumented immigrants who call the U.S. home.

“We’re going to have tens of thousands of people in front of the nation’s capital, sending a message, reminding our elected leaders that last November, our community spoke loud and clear that we voted and we voted for immigration reform,” said Jaime Contreras, vice president of the Washington DC chapter of the Service Employees International Union.

Chief among their demands is for elected officials to back legislation that would include a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and put an end to the deportations that have divided hundreds of thousands of families in recent years.

"Our concerns really are around making sure that the path to citizenship is clear and expeditious and isn't tethered to anything like [border] enforcement," Kica Matos, director of immigration rights at the Center for Community Change, told Reuters. Demonstrators were urged to lobby lawmakers the days leading up to the rally.

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The demonstration includes coordinated events across the country and, in the nation's capital, speeches featuring immigration rights advocates, labor leaders, faith organizations and members of Congress working on immigration legislation will culminate in a keynote address by NAACP President Benjamin Jealous.

“Now is the time to fix our nation’s broken immigration system,” Jealous said in a prepared statement. “On Wednesday we will join with allies to show Congress that a broad, diverse coalition of conscience demands a fair and common sense path to citizenship.”

Senators are expected to present a draft of their proposed legislation to Congress next week. 

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