Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tennesseans in D.C. today as 100,000 march for action on immigration bureaucracy

Ten charter buses from across Volunteer State ask TN delegation, President to move forward

Follow up-to-the-minute updates on these live blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

On the heels of statements of support by the President and a column in the Washington Post by Senators Schumer and Graham, 500 Tennesseans are in Washington, D.C. today to join approximately 100,000 others in a rally for immigration reform, in what is being called the “March for America.” Frustrated with the inaction and inability of Congress to find a realistic solution to our broken immigration system, thousands of Americans will take the streets and call on the President and other elected officials to make good on their promise to put immigration reform on the agenda this year.

With healthcare finally coming to a close, Congress has a few months before the summer recess to prove to the American people that they can solve the tough problems facing our nation. As the only truly bi-partisan issue on the Congressional docket, there are many hopeful signs that immigration reform can be achieved this spring.

“If you remember in 2008, both Presidential candidates expressed strong support for comprehensive reform,” says Stephen Fotopulos, Executive Director of the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition. “Immigration reform is one issue neither side of the aisle can afford to ignore, especially with the impact Latinos had in the last elections.”

Furthermore, immigrant advocates point to reform as a critical part of our nation’s economic recovery. A recent study by UCLA research Raul Hinjosa found that legalizing undocumented immigrants would contribute $1.5 trillion to the Gross Domestic Project over ten years, as more tax revenues are collected, wages increase for U.S.-born and foreign-born workers, and immigrants spend more in our economy.

“At a time of tight budgets and declining wages, why not generate billions in new tax revenue while stopping illegal exploitation by bad-actor employers who undercut honest business?” says Fotopulos. “Common sense, comprehensive immigration reform will help stabilize and strengthen the American economy.”

As the political and policy questions are answered, the momentum for reform grows nationally. Here in TN, advocates have been hard at work in their local communities throughout the state. Whereas organizers originally hoped to send 250 people from TN to the event, the excitement around the mobilization forced a change of plans; now, over 500 will represent Tennessee in the March for America. In the small town of Shelbyville, TN, community leaders have organized over 200 people to join the march, demonstrating that the impact of our broken immigration system reaches far beyond the big cities.

Jaime Gonzalez, a TIRRC volunteer from Shelbyville and a graduate student at Middle Tennessee State University, has seen the impact first hand:

“We are constantly receiving reports of honor students being told they cannot continue their higher education because they do not have a social security number,” says Gonzalez. “We have spoken to children who say they become worried when their parents are late coming home because they believe their mother or father have been detained by immigration authorities.”

“When the leaders of this nation wake up on that Sunday morning and see us there, tens of thousands of Americans, we will remind them that change takes courage. For we are sons, we are daughters, we are brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, we are students, we are teachers, we are engineers, we are builders, we are civilians, we are soldiers, we are dreamers, we are human, we are here; and, we are marching for America.”

(Read Gonzalez's full story here.)

Buses left from Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville throughout the day on Saturday, driving overnight, and arriving in Washington, D.C. on Sunday morning. Although the bus departures were closed to the press, video footage and pictures will be distributed upon request and multiple community spokespeople will be available for interview before, during, and after the March. There are a number of unique individual stories yet to be covered in the press. For more information, contact Elias Feghali at or 615-784-9745.

TIRRC has been posting up-to-the-minute updates on its live blog, Facebook, and Twitter pages.

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