The sentiments of the Christian leaders were echoed by demonstrators Sunday.
Eric Amontoya, 20, a D.C. resident said the current immigration system is unfair and it penalizes people who are just trying to work hard.
“I’ve been hearing about it in the news that they (undocumented immigrants) have been deported in the middle of work, and I’m thinking that there is so much crime, there is a war going on and there are still people here being deported just for working and trying to make a living,” Amontoya said. “I’m thinking that’s not fair.”
The young protester said his family and friends, some of who are undocumented, have been adversely affected by the current immigration system. His friend’s father was unable to obtain a driver’s license because he does not have a social security number.
Another demonstrator, Elizabeth Oh, is part of a group of 500 Asian Americans from New York. Oh said many non-U.S. born Koreans in the United States cannot get scholarships to go to their college of choice and therefore have a lower chance of getting good jobs.
Oh shared that personally one of her closest cousins could not get financial aid and therefore could not attend the college of her choice. She and other Asian-American students at the rally want Congress to pass the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act so that undocumented alien students who graduated U.S. high schools with good grades would have the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency and qualify for college scholarships.
Caribbean Americans were also represented at the rally. Bishop Orlando Findlay of Brooklyn-based Churches United to Save and Heal (CUSH) led nine buses carrying 450 Caribbean Christians to the nation’s capital to advocate for immigration reform.
“Even in the Caribbean community, so many of us are undocumented,” said Findlay, whose group consists of clergy members. “We saw the immigration fight as a Latino fight, so we had stayed on the sideline.”
But last year the group decided to join the fight and has organized multiple trips to Capitol Hill to lobby members of Congress.
“We realized that once there is victory, we’ll all have victory,” said Findlay, who shared that the community feels the pain from the immigration system when one of its undocumented members cannot go home to attend a relative’s funeral because of their legal status.
A high-profile delegation of religious leaders will meet with senior White House officials on Monday to push for a committed timeline for immigration reform to be moved forward in Congress. The delegation includes: the Rev. Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners; the Rev. Peg Chamberlain, president of National Council of Churches; and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.