Early last week, I had the honor of driving with ten community members from Miami to Washington, D.C. to participate in a rally. Representatives of WeCount!, the Miami Workers Center, and South Florida Interfaith Worker Justice – including three fasters from the Fast for Our Families – joined many other representatives of the faith community, workers rights organizations, and immigrants rights advocates to call on the Obama Administration to the end of the separation of immigrants from their U.S. citizen family members.
On January 26th, just before noon, we reached the Department of Homeland Security office, where other concerned activists and organizations had already started to gather. From where we stood, we could look to the Northwest and see the Washington Monument, and look to the Northeast to see the Capitol building.
We started to march, carrying signs proclaiming “Reform Not Raids”, “Stop Separating Families”, and “Immigrants Work for America’s Prosperity: Justice for All Workers." For the good of all of our families, we marched in front of the Department of Homeland Security.
Soon we gathered together for a few words from active leaders of the immigrant rights movement. The day of the protest was significant – January 26th was the day before President Obama’s State of the Union address. As one speaker stated, we were there to protest “one year of inaction, one year of broken promises, one year of an administration that has failed to protect immigrant families and the US citizens that love them.”
Maria Rodriguez of the Florida Immigrant Coalition introduced the three fasters present from the Fast for Our Families - Wilfredo Mendoza, Sebastian Cano, and Francisco Agustin. Maria stated, “We are here because the state of the Union is broken when immigrant families, immigrant workers, and U.S. workers are not respected. We have said, ‘Enough is enough’.”
After the program, twenty brave individuals put their bodies on the line to stress the need for change. Invoking the names of Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Cesar Chavez, and many more, these determined activists lined up on the cross walk and proceeded to sit down, blocking the traffic on 12th Street and then Independence Avenue. Stated a Reverend that was part of this action of civil disobedience, “It’s time we must bring about justice and equality for all, or there does not exist peace or justice or equality for any of us.”
Following the rally, my friends from South Florida and I walked from D Street past the Washington Monument, and over to the White House. We had been trying to see the White House all day – that symbol of power that has control of whether immigrants and the U.S. citizens who love them are allowed to stay together. We were determined to see the White House before we left for Miami, because there is still hope that this situation that faces immigrants can change for the better.