U of I students join march for immigration reform

While many students left campus for the beach to celebrate spring break, others decided to start their break marching in Washington, D.C., for immigration reform.

About 54 students from the University and Parkland College attended the Immigration Reform March Washington, D.C., 2010 on March 21. The march was the latest attempt for organizers to persuade legislators to reform U.S. immigration policies. The rally started at Lafayette Park by the White House and continued on to the National Mall, said Socorro Morales, graduate student.

La Colectiva, a registered student organization, sponsored the trip along with other groups from La Casa Cultural Latina. La Colectiva, founded in 2004, addresses social justice issues on campus with a focus on immigration issues, said Jesse Hoyt, president of La Colectiva and junior in LAS.

The goal of the trip was to “send a message to President Obama to show the (protesters’) unity and to tell the president why immigration reform is important,” said Catherine Salgado, communications director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

The convoy from the University was part of a larger group from Illinois that travelled to the capital. About 9,000 people from Illinois piled into 132 buses and 33 vans and attended the march, Salgado said.

Hoyt said 200,000 people are estimated to have attended the march, and that he saw the rally as “very positive and very exciting.” He added that there were all kinds of people at the march, from undocumented children to legal citizens.

“Just seeing 200,000 people out there was impressive,” he said.

Salgado said this topic is relevant to not only the immigrant community, but the entire American community.

Because of this, she said there were protesters present who had no direct affiliation to the cause.

“(Immigration) reform will keep the community as a whole,” she said.

“We also had citizens who didn’t know any undocumented people who went out to the march.”

Despite the large turnout, Morales said she was surprised there was not more media coverage for such a large-scale event.

“The fact that so many people had been outside the buildings, to not hear of that much coverage about the march was surprising,” she said.

“Even from the local stations, there was not that much coverage.”

Morales said one of the reasons for the lack of coverage could have been due to the night’s historic health care reform vote by the House of Representatives. As the march progressed, the protesters became aware of what was transpiring at the Capitol and how the vote’s implications would overshadow the immigration rally, she added.

Morales said the next step in the fight for immigration reform is up to Obama.

“If he really pushes the issue, we, organizers, will show him the support,” Morales said.

“If we leave it as it is, many more families will be separated, many more students will not go to college, and the numbers (of people affected by a lack of immigration reform) will escalate even more.”

Hoyt said he hopes reform supporters can persuade U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-15, and other legislators to reevaluate and reform immigration policy.

“The next step is contacting legislators and continuing to gather support for immigration reform,” Hoyt said. “It is for the better of the country.”