Activists converge on White House to press for liberal immigration reform

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Hundreds of immigrants and advocates from around the nation converged yesterday on the White House, calling for immigration reform to include legalization, family reunification and workers’ rights.

The Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) organized the march from the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church on M Street Northwest down 16th Street to Lafayette Square in front of the White House, corralling more than 1,000 demonstrators to bring attention to the immigration-reform bill.

The event, months in planning, originally was scheduled to coincide with what organizers anticipated would be a pivotal moment for the bill’s passage by the House; instead, Senate debates have stalled the bill’s progress over the past few weeks.

“Even if the issue died, we’d be fighting to revive it,” said Rich Stolz, FIRM’s co-director. “If it’s continuing, we want to be in the thick of it.”

Mr. Stolz said the goal of FIRM — a project of the nonprofit Center for Community Change — is immigration reform that includes “straightforward and broad” legalization of the nation’s 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens without exorbitant fees and a plan to keep workers with their families.

A man representing an Arab-American organization spoke about the need for immigrants of all nationalities and faith backgrounds to unite for reform.

“Do we value the nation’s immigrant tradition?” he shouted to cheers and applause.

Children led the demonstrators through the 95-degree heat to a short rally at the square. Many held banners and posters that read “Legalization now” and “Protect our families” while chanting in English and Spanish.

A group of adults pushed empty strollers carrying posters of a teary child under text that read “Keep families together.”

Local immigrant-advocacy group CASA of Maryland joined national organizations such as the New York Immigration Coalition and Dream Across America, a traveling campaign to promote awareness of the diversity of the nation’s immigrants.

Among the participants were recent graduates of the University of California at Los Angeles and various faith-based organizations.

The New York group organized 10 buses of demonstrators to the District for yesterday’s event.

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