Protesters urge Feinstein to take lead on immigration reform


Protesters, many of them immigrants, argued that immigrants do much of America’s hardest work and deserve rights and respect. As one speaker said, “We work hard, but we expect justice in return.” Photo by Christopher D. Cook/SF Public Press.

Capping a wave of national immigration-rights actions across the country, local organizers turned this week to urging Sen. Dianne Feinstein to support comprehensive reform.

About 2,000 Bay Area immigrants and others rallied Wednesday in front of Feinstein’s San Francisco office. The nationwide effort — including a march of 200,000 in Washington, D.C. — is aimed at pressuring Congress to support “humane comprehensive immigration reform” to protect undocumented immigrants while moving them toward legal status, prevent immigrant families from being split apart by deportations, and other goals.

“We are here to tell Dianne Feinstein now is the time for immigration reform, that immigrants must have their rights, that workers must be respected,” Ali Noorani, of the National Immigration Forum, told the crowd. “No longer will we be silent when families are getting ripped apart, and people are dying on our borders. No more excuses.”

The rally featured state and national immigrant rights leaders, as well as local politicians, urging senators Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to play a lead role in passing comprehensive immigration reform measures currently making their way through Congress.

“Senator Feinstein, don’t just support immigration reform, lead the way in immigration reform,” San Francisco Supervisor David Campos said.

Eric Quezada, a local immigrant-rights leader and nonprofit director, told protesters, “Every day that goes by without immigration reform, another parent is separated from their child, and that is unacceptable.”

Local advocates were joined by statewide leaders such as Angelica Salas, of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, a city that she said hosts “the largest number of people being deported” in the country. Each night, 1,400 immigrants sit in detention centers in Los Angeles awaiting likely deportation, according to Salas, who described “constant harassment of people who are undocumented.”

The crowd was filled with families, including 45-year-old Anna Samuel of Richmond, and her 5-year-old son. “We work hard and don’t bother anyone,” she said.

Asked why he was protesting, 10-year-old Josue Calixtro said, “to get freedom for our family.”

The diverse crowd included members of faith groups, labor unions, community organizations and families from across the Bay Area. Photo by Christopher D. Cook/SF Public Press.
Immigration reform leaders argue that Latino, black and Asian-American immigrants played a key role in President Barack Obama’s election. Roughly 70 percent of 10 million Latino votes went for Obama, according to Antonio Gonzalez of the National Latino Congress. “We are not asking for immigrants rights, they owe us immigrant rights,” he said. “If they don’t give us immigration reform, we will unelect them.” Photo by Christopher D. Cook/SF Public Press.

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