Thousands to Rally in D.C. for Immigration Reform

Tens of thousands of people are expected to come together in Washington for a demonstration of support for immigration reform as the rest of the nation hones in on the health care debate.

Announced one month earlier, Sunday's demonstration will bring together leaders and organizations representing labor, people of faith, and communities from across the country to demand that Congress address the nation's most pressing issues.

"The American people are demanding that Congress come together and deliver," says Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum and chairman of the Reform Immigration for America Campaign, which organized the rally.

"The time is right for both parties to work together to create a bipartisan bill to address our broken and outdated immigration system," Noorani adds. "Thousands of working families will be coming to DC to show that the American people want a practical solution that is fair to everyone, is key to our economic recovery, and lives up to our best traditions as a nation of immigrants."

Though the yearlong effort to pass President Obama's health care bill has yet to conclude, immigration reform supporters have been pushing the issue that it views as next-in-line, with some arguing that the broken immigration system is a fundamental link to fixing the economy.

"Comprehensive immigration reform would put the economy on a more stable footing, provide a vital boost for recovery, and increase wages for all," argues Noorani. "The fact is that Congress must act immediately address our weak economy, create jobs, and get our country moving again."

In December, a coalition of lawmakers unveiled a new reform bill that seeks to legalize undocumented immigrants by requiring them to register with the federal government, pay a $500 fine for each adult, learn English, pass background checks and meet other requirements before becoming eligible for a six-year visa that can eventually lead to a green card.

Though there is some skepticism over whether Congress will be willing to take up immigration reform so soon after a tough health care debate, Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who has become a leader of a multiethnic coalition of immigration reform backers, said the plan is to get ready "so when they are done with their work, we can quickly act."

Coincidentally, Sunday's immigration rally will be held as members of the U.S. House are scheduled to gather for a rare Sunday session to vote on a compromise health care reform bill.

According to the latest tally, Democrats were still short of the 216 votes needed to pass President Obama's bill, though one House Democratic leader claimed that they have the votes and another predicted that there will be more than 216 votes when they call the roll.

According to The Associated Press, House Democratic leaders are preparing for three showdown votes when they convene at 1 p.m. EDT – coincidentally the same time a prayer service has been scheduled to start Sunday's immigration rally.

The immigration march and the first health care vote are expected to begin an hour later.